A letter to Pakistanis about President Barack Obama

by Raakin Iqbal

As we are well aware, and not to point out the elephant (or donkey) in the room, but we are in the leap year of elections! Now as you all do know, elections are something taken “not too seriously” by a great majority of Pakistanis, which is very unfortunate. Voting is something that is our birthright and a privilege to others in different nations, even in Pakistan. Pakistan just had their democratic elections a few years ago and surprisingly, the government hasn’t been toppled yet (I guess I am going to have to pay my college $100 on that bet). Anyways, I am going off topic, my letter to my Pakistani brothers and sisters are to give them a sense of clearance and priority.

As the brutal election/Olympic year continued in 2012, I have had my fair share of conversations with the “uncles” and even aunties (as I tried keeping their minds away from getting me rishta-fied) about who they feel their vote would go to; President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the upcoming elections? And you maybe surprised with whom they would vote for…Mitt Romney.

Why you ask? Well you would imagine a very complex answer like, “Beta tumhe samaaj nai ayega,” Urdu for “You wouldn’t understand son,” but since they do know of my political interests and how I am currently studying at Georgetown, they justify their vote by saying, “Well Obama killed so many Pakistanis with flying airplanes [drones]”. And as I sit there waiting for more reasons to continue as to why they won’t vote for Obama, they stop and I respond, “So is that it? Or are there more reasons.”

And here is why I begin to start scratching my head and felt like writing this post:


Dear U.S Voting Pakistanis,

As you already know the elections are coming up and this is the moment where we all as a community can unite and make a difference. It comes to my attention that a lot of us are split in voting, either for President Obama or Mitt Romney, unlike last time where a majority of us voted in unison. After having many different conversations, it feels like the ones who are not voting for Barack, is because of his intense utilization of the Drone technology in the “War on Terror” and not much of the OBL raid.

Yes truth be told, the death count is large. For every one terrorist killed, it was seven civilians (varies due to no official report being published). I am not justifying that, but I am saying that we need to get our minds out from the narrow path. Do I sound insensitive? Yes I do. But the real question is, am I insensitive? No I am not. Our issue in general is that we always seek one avenue conviction and immediately, justify it. But truth be told, we need to think practically, in long-term and what benefits us as a community of Pakistanis in the United States.

Lets first focus on healthcare.  Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition. I am sure we as a community have had issues where our loved ones are diagnosed with a God forbidden disease and when we seek treatment, we have to pay a cost that can forever change our lives. We pay insurance companies to look after our families, our well being, and us. But back then, if you had pre-existing issues like (to name a few), Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Hypertension, Diabetes, Dyslipidemia, Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), etc. you were denied coverage. You then had to fork up a pretty big bill that either you could afford (by managing to change a part of your lifestyle) or not afford at all. With the passing of Obamacare, you won’t have to worry about that. You are given a hand in need when necessary.

Another thing what we need to focus on is education. President Obama has made more Pell grants available to those who qualify. You ask what is a Pell Grant? Basically the federal government provides for students who need it to pay for college. They are limited to students with financial need, who have not earned their first bachelor’s degree or who are not enrolled in certain post-baccalaureate programs, through participating institutions (via StudentAid.ED.Gov). Other than that, Obama has help kept the student loan interest at a low whereas the opposing party wants to increase it in some way, shape or form. We Pakistanis have a lot on our plate and we as families prioritize education at the top. But when supporting for your family comes in the way of sending your kids to college, it really hurts a Dad or Mom who has to find ways to finance their [and children’s] dreams. But aaj kaal (these days) students are working multiple part-time and at times, full-time jobs to finance their education. If we vote for the GOP and Mitt Romney, they are going to take away our benefits as students, lovers of education and the key reason why we migrated to the U.S.

When President Obama took office, we were losing thousands of jobs on a monthly basis because our economy hadn’t tanked fully. We hit one of the hardest moments in our lives since the Great Depression. However, it was his policies, actions, and commitment that got us out of that initial hole and still to this day, we are getting out of it. But at least the economy is going up. Our homes are slowly gaining value, banks are loaning money again and there are now mortgage relief programs set aside.

We obviously as Pakistanis cannot look at this from an angle which is short-term. Obama made such promises to us the Americans and Pakistani Americans that he would try to get us out of this mess created by Bush. Though the results wouldn’t take place over-night, he guided our economy and job growth to help us prosper.

When you approach the voting booth come November. Yaad karo (remember this): why did you migrate to Umreeka (America), my fellow Uncles and Aunties? You had left your country to find better work and a better place for your kids to grow up and roshin (brighten) the family name and pride and to seek opportunities! Think of all those hours you have worked those part time jobs to even the full time ones to support your family and your kids’ future. Do you want our basic fundamental rights to be taken away?

And the kids who are going to be casting their votes too also need to think practical as well. You know such change doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. By voting for the other party or not voting at all will just hurt us as a community. The facilities given to us, who our fathers and mothers have worked so hard to gain US benefit, will change. We all go to school, we all see costs going up, and imagine paying more for education. Majority of you reading this post are going to be in school or are in some form of an educational program. Imagine you worked so hard to educate yourself and built up these student loans and upon graduation, you cannot find a private sector job. Since Obama has taken office and implemented his policies, we have had a good growth in private sector jobs.

Overall what this post was about is that we cannot justify foreign policy on the basis of what has happened in Pakistan such as the drones, Osama Bin Laden Raid and all. We need to get ourselves out of this mindset and remind ourselves why we came to such a beautiful country; “the land of opportunity.” The Democrats have helped us advance in such times. From the times where the Republicans were calling for our heads and Republican media affiliates were calling us the terrorists (they still do today), Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have helped us and it is time we pay back the favor. Please do so by casting your vote and continue making a difference. Remember, I am no official campaigner for the Obama Victory Fund, but I am an American Pakistani who can relate to our community and who attempts to think rationally and this time and for the next four years, that choice is President Barack Obama.

Love | Peace & Raakin ROll

– Raakin Iqbal