Washington DC: As global shock over the results of US Presidential Elections gives way to introspection and cautious optimism over what direction the country might take under President-Elect Donald Trump, the mood among the Pakistani and Afghan diaspora is one of fear and hope about their future under a president widely regarded as anti-Muslim.
US citizens of Pakistani and Afghan origin feel that Donald Trump took Islamophobia to new levels when he famously proclaimed during his election campaign that he would stop Muslims from entering the country.
Shuja Nawaz, a distinguished fellow at The Atlantic Council, a bi-partisan think tank in Washington DC, told News Lens that as a Muslim and a Pakistani American, he approached the next administration under the 45th US president with trepidation. His concern, he said, stemmed from the xenophobic rhetoric Donald Trump employed during the campaign and the ascendancy of white nationalists who would influence policies of the Trump administration.
However, Shuja added that Donald Trump will need to build broad-based support to govern effectively and to operate on the global stage. “I expect some toning down of the rhetoric after he is inaugurated.”
Shuja, author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the War Within” said that Donald Trump might accelerate the US withdrawal from Afghanistan which would send the country into a downward spiral. He said the Pakistani and Afghan diaspora would do its best to convince the new president against taking that course of action. This, said Shuja, would be done via public commentary and through briefing Donald Trump’s supporters, including the Pakistani Americans who had funded the presidential campaign. Members of the Pakistani diaspora, including Shuja, have now been approached to help find the right candidates for the 4000 vacancies that the president-elect needs to fill, he said.
“We are duty bound to help him succeed in running the country successfully,” Shuja said. “As members of the Afghan and Pakistani diaspora, we will continue to build the United States and seek to build bridges between this country and the countries of our birth.”
The ongoing protest demonstrations in different US states against President-elect Donald Trump didn’t find favour with Shuja who said they were understandable given the fears that the presidential elections had whipped up among the citizens. “But they provide an umbrella for disparate groups and, therefore, could get out of hand. I do not favor violence or vandalism. If the demonstrations persist, the protesters will lose support.”
President-elect Trump, once he takes office, must remain engaged with Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia in general under the rubric of a regional policy, said Shuja, instead of favouring a single country or two in shaping policies. “Greater South Asia also includes Afghanistan and Iran. The new administration will need to work with all the countries of the subcontinent, and Russia and China, to stabilize relations in that volatile region with three nuclear states: Iran, Pakistan, and India.”
However, the immediate concern for the US based immigrants is how President Trump would staff the new administration and how he would implement the ideas presented during the presidential campaign on controlling immigrants from Muslim countries or those where terrorism may have taken roots.
“Compared to other, much smaller countries, the US has not welcomed a large numbers of refugees,” said Shuja. “The rhetoric [against immigrants] is exaggerated. We hope it will be dialed back now.”
A total of 38,901 Muslim refugees entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2016, making up almost half (46 per cent) of the nearly 85,000 refugees who entered the country in that period, says a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.
About 35,000 Christian refugees entered US during the same period, says the Pew analysis. Only 10,000 Syrian refugees were expected to enter the United States in 2016, of which around 7,000 have been admitted to date. In comparison, more than 34,000 Syrian refugees were welcomed to Canada between November 2015 and February 2016, a country with only 35 million inhabitants, compared to the US’ population of 325 million.
Rizwan Kadir, a Chicago based US citizen of Pakistani origin who supported Hilary Clinton, said the fact that Donald Trump had secured presidency and his party dominated both the Senate and the House of Representatives was “scary” but what the new administration “truly needs is tolerance and collaboration.”
“Despite troubling times, I believe that American principles are so strong so we need not worry about the Trump presidency,” said Kadir.
United States Director for The Association of British Muslims Seeme Gul Hasan, a Pakistani-American, explained that former president George W Bush gave the White House a lot of powers. Originally, she said, presidents had to go through Congress to get any Laws passed but Bush’s White House became powerful in the wake of 9/11 where the president increasingly resorted to issuing executive orders.
“President Obama used this [constitutionally held] power a lot to push through laws despite resistance from the opposition,” said Hassan. “With Trump as president, he will have these executive powers. He can use them against Muslims.”
However, any executive order that does not fit within the provisions of the US Constitution would have to be taken to the court that will have a final say on its relevance and applicability, said Hassan. “I am not sure President Trump can do much damage [by way of executive powers]. I am worried it is the people who are encouraged by Trump and his friends who may practice hate and hurt Muslims. Trump needs to come out and say this is wrong.”
She said Trump could ban Muslims from entering the US but American business and companies will not like it. “The US companies have staff that travel all over the world. Will they not be able to come back? Trump will face objections from his bureaucrats if he bans travel of Muslims to US. I think he only wants to stop refugees from entering the country.”