CHICAGO: As the US presidential election is underway, Pakistani-American voters are jittery about the outcome of America’s most volatile presidential campaign.
“I’m very nervous because we don’t know how things might work out if Donald Trump is elected,” said Rizwan Kadir, president of Pakistan club at the University of Chicago. “There is a good possibility of violence that you don’t generally associate with the American election process.”
As a Pakistani-American, Kadir feels uneasy about Trump’s comments against Muslims and other minority groups in the country.
Kadir, who is an active community leader and business consultant to Fortune 100 companies in Chicago, also noted that if there is backlash against the minorities, a significant number of people in the country will stand up against it.
However, he said a segment of public opinion believes that in the event Trump becomes president, the powerful establishment – which includes civilian, military, and intelligence power vectors – will coax him or impose restrictions and checks and balances on his presidency.
Kadir expressed confidence in the GOP candidate’s opponent. He is hopeful that Hillary Clinton’s victory would offer more stability to the country.
Trump’s remarks have spurred a major drive for Muslims to take part in the election. In recent years, Muslims have voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party.
Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015. According to the Washington-based research group, Muslims make up about 1% of the total US population. A sizeable number of this segment of the society comes from South Asia.
Commenting on the election process that has bitterly divided America, Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Consul General of Pakistan in Chicago, said Pakistani-Americans were deeply involved in the electoral exercise.
“This year has seen an upsurge in the registration of Pakistani- American voters,” Tirmizi said while talking to The Express Tribune at the diplomatic mission in the heart of Chicago. “They are participating overwhelmingly in the electoral process. The vigour seen in this election is unparalleled,” the diplomat added.
“I encourage Pakistani’s to take part in the electoral process. Because without taking part they cannot take part in the criticising of whoever wins,” he said.
Dispelling the impact of the toxic campaign, the diplomat also said that rhetoric fades once the election is over. “It doesn’t matter or affect the diplomatic ties with Pakistan whether it is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House,” Tirmizi stated.
Many Pakistani-Americans fear that a Trump presidency would dismantle the US ruling structure, leading to a gradual collapse of the US as a result of arbitrary policies and the racism and hate that have all marked the attitudes of the Republican candidate since he decided to run for president; and that could also characterise his tenure.
“If Trump wins, I am worried about America’s future. I worry that we will become a laughing stock in front of the entire world,” said Maham Khan, a Pakistani-American writer. “And at home, it will no doubt be trying times for Muslims and immigrants who probably took for granted a feeling of security living in America.”
Expressing her views on the Democratic candidate’s ability to lead the country, she said, “I trust Hillary Clinton’s experience to take us forward as a stronger nation and hopefully fill the gaps for women and minorities in this country.”
For Maham, the election of the first female president is a thrilling moment. “I have been waiting for the first female president not just to see a female president, but to have a leader that betters the condition for working women [and all women] in this country,” she stated.
During the fiercely contested election campaign, Trump has repeatedly proposed a ban on immigrants from nations that, according to him have been compromised by terrorism. The GOP leader has also called for a blanket ban on Muslims.
Many Pakistani immigrants who have spent decades in the United States oppose Trump’s views. Sabzali Madhani, an 80-year-old retired businessman in Chicago said he was baffled by Trump’s popularity in certain segments of the country despite his rancorous comments.
“I came here from Pakistan with only two hundred dollars in my pocket. I worked honestly and worked my way up. Migrants like me have invested their lives in this country,” said Madhani, who migrated to the United States in 1972. “My biggest fear is that all the progress that immigrants have made in this country would be jeopardised if Trump is elected,” he added with a quiver in his voice.
Even though Madhani believes Clinton is the status quo candidate for the country, he is optimistic that her presidency will not be as unpredictable as her opponent. “Clinton has a baggage but at least she knows how to perform. Trump is unpredictable.”
Many Pakistani expats speak of choosing the lesser evil between the two presidential candidates. Observers fear that the unprecedentedly negative campaign’s toxic effect will linger after the election, taking the United States into what resembles a low-temperature civil war.
Steve Franklin a former Middle East correspondent, who has extensively written about Islam in America, said Muslims in America would be very worried if Trump gets elected – particularly after what he has been saying during the campaign.
“At most Trump’s victory would cause deep concern for Muslims and frighteningly it may comfort the anti-Islamic groups who find support in Trump’s words,” Franklin said.
Echoing Franklin’s views, Richard Longworth, a veteran journalist and fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs said, “If Donald Trump is elected nothing is going to be better.”
“At the very least it will raise a great deal of fear among minorities,” he added.
Longworth noted that the tangible impact of Trump’s hate-filled campaign appears to be to speeding up the rate by which minority communities were taking part in the American political system.
“Hillary Clinton understands the complexities of our society and the world. She has immense experience,” the veteran journalist said while supporting the Democratic candidate over her Republican rival.
While many expats are on the edge about the outcome of the election, Ali Raza, 26, a Pakistani, working in the New York financial services industry expressed his reservations about Trump’s proposed plans to ban Muslims.
“I fears that the Republican candidate might validate bigotry in the country, but I don’t think he can ever ban Muslims or erect walls to prevent Mexicans from entering the country,” said Raza, who hails from Karachi.
Raza is not the only one in the league of optimistic Pakistanis. Haris Ahmed, President of Organisation of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (OPEN), expressed hope that America would emerge as a better nation after the election.
“What we truly need is tolerance and collaboration. Despite these troubling times, I believe that America’s principles are so strong that we will emerge as a better nation regardless of who wins,” said Ahmed, who immigrated to the United States over three decades ago.