Today, the world woke up to news that Barack Obama had been elected the 44th President of the United States. Considering that voter turnout on November 4th was considerably high, CHUP thought it significant to speak with several Pakistani-Americans about their experiences prior to and at the voting booth. Ramez Qamar, who works for The Resource Group, felt this election was historic, noting, “Americans have been more eager to participate in this election than any in recent memory.” He added, “The atmosphere at the voting stations was one of energy and optimism. I noticed several younger people taking time out from work or school to vote and I was pleased at the number of families that came together to participate as well.” Eman Patel, a program coordinator for an international development NGO, echoed, “The atmosphere at the polls was very encouraging – the focus of the elections seems to have become more about energizing people to get out and vote rather than about partisan beliefs…It says a lot about civil society when children that young are concerned about voting and are aware of their rights.” Law student Fahd Patel further noted, “I feel that more people consider it [voting] to be a civic duty than ever before.”
For Mossadaq Chughtai, the founding director of the Pakistani American Leadership Center [PAL-C], choosing who to vote for was not a difficult decision. He noted, “Though voting for Obama is a risk, it was one worth taking.” Maria Saadat, a student, expressed her frustration with the current policies and crises, adding, “Therefore, like many voters, it was most important for me to pick the candidate I felt had the most potential to offer change, regardless of which party I belong to.” The deciding factor for her, she said, came down to the candidate’s previous voting record and past performance, noting those were an indication of how they would perform as President. For Ramez, his decision came down to issues related to the economy and foreign policy, emphasizing he voted for a candidate who would “help regain America’s standing in the world and contribute to it’s citizen’s prosperity.”
Given that Pakistan has been a major topic in this election cycle, did the candidates’ stances impact Pakistani-American voters? For Fahd, McCain and Obama’s proposed policies on Pakistan affected his decision yesterday, “because of the geopolitical sitation…what’s good for Pakistan is good for the U.S.” Maria, on the other hand, asserted, “I think no matter what each candidate says they will do in terms of Pakistan, the real outcome is unknown. A lot of the President’s policies towards such nations are not simply for him to decide. Congress and the Cabinet play a big role in these foreign relationships.” Mossadaq echoed, “As we all must keep in mind, policy about Pakistan would depend on the candidate’s foreign relation team members.”
Whether President Obama will bring the change he has promised remains to be seen. However, there is no doubt that his campaign ignited the country and inspired many who were never interested in politics to invest in their country’s future. That in itself is revolutionary and made the outcome last night all the more significant and memorable. [Image from Dawn]
For a related source, read Frontline/World’s special, “Pakistani-Americans Stand Up,” part of their Elections 2008: The World Is Watching series.