America Diary: A question of identity

Soon after 9/11, men from the FBI and other agencies started visiting homes of Pakistani families.


Our Special Correspondent April 17, 2011



There are 106,000 Indian students enrolled in US schools of higher learning while 5,298 Pakistanis are studying in the US. It is a worrisome trend.


After September 11, 2001, Pakistanis in the US have lived under a different set of challenges. Many have changed their names, says ‘Mo’ Razvi, who runs a community organisation called the Council for Peoples Organisation (CPO), which is based in Brooklyn, New York.

As the tenth anniversary of the September 11 incident approaches, what we see is that while Pakistan has been an active participant in the war against terror, it is Pakistanis – both those who live in Pakistan and those of Pakistani origin who live in the US – have suffered the most.

This despite the fact that none of the September 11 attackers were Pakistani, says Razvi. And yet, soon after the incident, men from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started visiting homes of Pakistani families to check the immigration status of those living in the US.

People who changed their residential address and did not inform the authorities were placed under arrest. Those stopped for traffic offences were asked questions about their immigration status.

A department of justice report on the treatment of Muslims says that 80 per cent of those picked up for questioning were Muslim and 50 per cent of them were Pakistanis.

As many as 180,000 people registered at the Special Registration Programme and so far 13,000 Pakistanis have been deported or fear that the deportation process is being initiated.

If there was fear of Pakistanis after September 11, the Faisal Shehzad incident made things worse. Hundreds lost their jobs while several thousand others suffered as, in many instances, they were automatically not shortlisted for job interviews.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, who is active in working with Pakistani communities, says that the biggest problem is that Pakistanis continue to be inward-looking. They want their own meat shops and madrassas for their children.

To be fair, Haqqani has worked hard. He commands respect and has won friends in his new position. There is a consensus that Pakistanis should be more mindful and participatory when it comes to local US politics. They should set aside time and money for local parties.

But so far, this is not happening. Instead, we see conventions for Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz taking place in New York and Chicago.



Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2011.

COMMENTS (5)

Nizam | 10 years ago | Reply This article is rubbish, and irresponsible journalism. There are thousands of Pakistani-Americans thriving in every sector of the U.S. society and economy. And to get deported is such a lengthy process, yet you gloss over all the actual illegal immigration that takes place from Pakistan. The author clearly has a point of view and is not interested in actually reporting or showing both sides of the story. Do you even have fact-checkers working there?
Adil | 10 years ago | Reply @Cautious: let’s not forget that you are considered the nexus of terrorism by the entire World – something blissfully glossed over in this article. Yeah, those were us who dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.Those were us who killed so many Iraqis. Those were us who tried to play dirty games in South American nations. Those are us who brought destruction in African nations and Child soldiers in Africa are all the products of ISI.Those were us who portray Arabs,Chinese and Communist nations as evils and barbarians in our cartoons. Those are us who massacred thousands of civilians in Vietnam and Cambodia. I don't deny that Pakistan has got extremist elements in it, but if someone judge our entire nation based on that then I have also given some examples. Now its upto you how you perceive invasion of Iraq,Bosnia and Afghanistan.Isn't it a form of terrorism too, much worse than LeT,Jaish-e-Mohammad,Talibans and Al-Qaeda combined?
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