“War against terror” takes a toll of Pakistani diaspora

While the human cost of Pakistan’s battle against terrorism rises every day, the situation for Pakistan diaspora settled in the West is not that easy either as they become the chief suspects of terror and face the brunt of new security regulations.

Coney Island Avenue of Brooklyn area of New York was till recently called “Little Pakistan” as the place was dominated by people who had come from various parts of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to earn a descent living and send remittances to their families back home. Going by the hustle bustle of the area many people used to describe it as the famous Anarkali bazaar of Lahore city. Now the same place has become a vivid memory of its past. “The place has become a mix neighborhood as a total of 20,000 community members left United States in the last seven years and people of other non-Muslim countries filled the vacuum”, says Mohammad Razvi , Executive Director of Brooklyn based Council of Peoples Organization.

As security becomes one of the prime issues in the United States Presidential elections, many Pakistan origin Muslims living in United States are hoping that the new White House will end the post 9/11 backlash against the community. Muslims particularly who were born in Pakistan were the most affected in the post 9/11 environment after new security regulations were imposed. For instance, according to Brooklyn based Council of Peoples Organization more than 13,000 Muslim immigrants living in United States were put into deportation procedure and one of the largest chunks was of Pakistan born immigrants. Out of 25 countries whose nationals living in United States were asked to register themselves after the 9/11 incident under the Special registration order, 24 countries were Muslim countries, says Mohammad Razvi , Executive Director of Brooklyn based Council of Peoples Organization.

Deportation destabilized families of many Pakistan nationals living here from which they have not recovered. Syed Rizvi (34), a resident of Brooklyn area of New York State was asked to leave the country by the security agencies while his wife and children were allowed to stay back. Rizvi returned to his native place, Lahore in Pakistan while his wife and children stayed back. This is the sixth year of separation for Rizvi from his loved ones. There are countless like the family of Rizvi in different parts of United States whose loved ones had to leave the country after the new security regime, says Mohammad Razvi , Executive Director of Brooklyn based Council of Peoples Organization.The impact of deportation procedure left a fear psychosis on Muslim immigrants in general, he adds.

“I have seen both the pre and post 9/11 era and could feel the difference on the psyche of the Muslim community after the 9/11 attack. There is complete religious freedom in this country but at the societal level number of biases and prejudices exist. There is no black and white situation. But surely there has been a change which needs to be reversed by a multi pronged strategy” says Adil, a young US Muslim citizen who lives in Brooklyn. Adil was born in a family of Pakistan immigrants and for his family this was the second migration as his father had migrated from Indian Punjab in 1947 during partition when a new country called Pakistan was carved out of British India. Adil works as a technician in an entertainment channel and he believes that US elections are the time when the political parties should reach out to the Muslim population to integrate them in the larger societal fabric.

”Majority from Muslim community will vote for Democrats but some also vote for Republicans” says Mohammad Razvi , Executive Director of Brooklyn based Council of Peoples Organization. There was a time when Pakistan origin Muslims living in US used to support Republicans as they identified with the conservative values of the party. In sharp contrast to the present position of Republicans, Richard Nixon, US President who was a Republican had a clear tilt towards Pakistan as compared to India. This was in display during the 1971-72 Indo-Pak war when US ignored India’s position on “genocide of Bengali speaking Muslims by Pakistan army” and instead sent a military fleet to Bay of Bengal which was construed by India as a nuclear threat from U.S. Many South Asia experts believe that U.S. action was drive by the assessment that India’s win will give it an unchallenged military supremacy in South Asia and therefore it was the erstwhile Soviet Union which will dominate the region by proxy. India was closer to Soviet Union during the Cold War era particularly when the country was ruled by Indira Gandhi.The situation has come full circle and now it is the Republican Party which has ignored Pakistan protests and signed Indo-US nuclear deal. The deal will enable India to have nuclear reactors and it will fillip its nuclear energy supplies thus contributing to its energy starved industry. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher is on record to say that Pakistan does not have credentials like India to have a nuclear deal arrangement.

What are the issues of concern to the Pakistan Muslim community living in United States? Immigration related issues bother the community the most and they want transparency in the whole procedure. “We should have the right to be informed about our citizenship application. Usually we have to approach a politician to know the status but this takes lot of time. There should be full transparency” says Liaquat, a 48 year old United States citizen living in Coney Island Avenue of Brooklyn. Liaquat was born in Mirpur area of Pakistan administered Jammu and Kashmir, a pocket where migration to west is a trend for ages. Health Insurance is another issue which bothers the Pakistan born immigrants. “There is a need for State support in health care sector for poor households. This will benefit Muslim immigrants as many belong to this category”, says a 42 year old Tanvir Abbas who came from Lahore city of Pakistan.

A section of US citizens of Islamic faith also want the speedy decision on the discrimination suits filed after 9/11. “I had the qualification to be a Security officer but was refused a job in number of companies and the most likely reason was my faith. I have filed number of discrimination suits in the Human Rights Commission in various places of United States. We believe in the US democratic system and do hope that the new political executive will do everything to keep our faith in this great country” says Tanvir Abbas, a 42 year old Pakistan origin United States citizen.



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