Global Beat Organizes Debate on Implications of upcoming US Presidential Election
By Zafar Iqbal
The US presidential elections are just two months away and debate has been escalating about issues that had never been a part of the election campaign in previous elections. Topics like deportation and/or exclusion of certain segments of the society, namely Hispanics and Muslims have been brought into the forefront of media discussion. The scenario that has been created by divisive politicking, especially by one particular candidate, is causing serious concerns in our community.
The Global Beat decided to have an open forum interactive discussion-seminar with eminent panelists as a mechanism to educating the community about the process and implications of presidential election. The panelists included Dr Walter Anderson, a well-known South-Asian expert at the Johns Hopkins University; Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, a former undersecretary in the Clinton Administration, and journalists John Lennon, writer and a former Voice of America Director; Anwar Iqbal of Daily Dawn and Faiz Rehman, head of the VOA’s Urdu Service.
Welcoming the panelists and audience, Nuzaira Azam, founder CEO of Global Beat and organizer of the program, said that this year’s presidential election is unique in several ways. For the first time in US history, a woman candidate has been nominated by a major party and unlike previous elections, in this year’s election campaign race, ethnicity, religion, loyalty of certain group of people, and immigrations, etc. have been brought into public discussion. “The purpose of this discussion-seminar is to understand the US Presidential election process and to examine the implications of ongoing election rhetoric on the future of our community,” said Azam introducing the purpose of the meeting.
In his opening remarks Dr Andersen, who was chairing the discussion, noted a recent shift in the leaning of Pakistanis towards the Democratic Party. Traditionally, Pakistanis had been opting for Republican Party mainly because of their conservative ideas about birth control, abortion, homosexuality, and other similar issues. “Although Donald Trump, if elected, will not be able to implement even a fraction of his divisive ideas, the harmful effects of this spiteful rhetoric are likely to linger on for some time after the election,” Andersen noted while expressing his concerns. He also emphasized another significant difference in this year’s election that was the unpopularity of both candidates.
Ambassador Siddiqui, who was the highest-ranking Muslim in President Clinton’s administration, did not hide his leaning toward the Democratic Party candidate and expressed concerns about Donald Trump’s announced agenda about minorities, especially Muslims. He strongly urged Muslims to exercise their citizenship right to vote in the election. Abstaining from voting is not the solution to the problem. Candidates and politicians pay attention only to those who vote. He also said that there is no need to get scared, for US political and governance system has sufficient checks and balances guarding the rights of citizens.
John Lennon, an experienced journalist who had covered many elections and other political activities for decades, said that it was difficult to predict how the two candidates will fare vis-à-vis relations with China and some other major issues. He noted that Senator Bernie Sander’s campaign had invigorated American youth participation in the political process in a revolutionary way and it remains to be seen how these disenfranchised idealists would vote in the election.
In response to a question about US policies about Pakistan and Afghanistan, Anwar Iqbal, a senior journalist and Bureau Chief of Dawn, said irrespective of who wins the election, Washington is likely to stay engaged with both Pakistan and Afghanistan in the foreseeable future as there is a realization that war is not a solution to the problem. But he stressed that all South Asian nations, particularly Pakistanis and Afghanis, have to decide as to what kind of future they want for themselves.
Faiz Rehman appreciated the efforts of Global Beat to educate the community about the ongoing campaign issues. He said that we, as citizens of this country, are obligated to express our choice and vote in the election. He emphasized the significance of each vote citing the example of election of year 2000, where former president George W Bush became president by a very narrow margin.
Moderating the debate, Ali Imran, Chief Editor, Views and News, said that he two candidates have a lot of contrasts. Hillary Clinton is rightly or wrongly seen as a status quo candidate. Donald Trump, the outsider, is out to challenge everything conventional - even some of the Republican Party's cherished positions.