PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

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Unreasonable Men: Martin Luther King to Barack Husain Obama

"A reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. An unreasonable
man persists in attempting to adapt his environment to suit himself.
Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." So said the
famous British playwright George Bernard Shaw a century ago. The
"unreasonable Man" label applied well to the famous civil rights
leader Rev Martin Luther King in the 1960s and applies well today to
US presidential candidate Senator Barack Husain Obama. As the
Americans celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday today, we are
reminded of the struggle he led in 1960s to make it possible for Obama
to make history by recently winning the first of the presidential
primaries in Iowa, a predominantly white state with very few Blacks or
other minorities. When MLK started his non-violet civil disobedience
movement (emulating Mahatma Gandhi), few thought he would succeed. But
his sincere methods, powerful oratory and great persistence convinced
a large number of Blacks and Whites to join in and eventually made it
possible for civil rights legislation to pass. MLK did not live to see
the day as he was assassinated in 1968. About 39 years later, as Barak
Husain Obama spoke after the history-making Iowa win, he said, "They
said this day would never come. Our time for change has come."
Barack Hussain Obama's historic win in Iowa caucuses clearly signals
that desire for change in America is strong and all-encompassing. The
scope of this change includes a new willingness to accept a black man
as commander-in-chief, a break from the Bush policies such as the
choice of military force over soft power and diplomacy in
international affairs, and increasing concern to provide ordinary
citizens with broader access to healthcare and education. The people
of Iowa strongly endorsed Obama's message of change and rejected
Hilary's message of experience as continuation of the
business-as-usual rather than a strength. Obama's victory speech
carried live on national TV was widely well received. Some even
compared it with the memorable speeches of FDR and MLK. The Obama
candidacy has energized a lot of people, including a large number
young men and women, and brought them into the electoral process. Just
look at how large a presence Obama supporters have on Facebook and
college campuses.
It seems that this nation appears ready to judge a person by the
content of his(her) character rather than the color of the skin.
From his message of change, it is clear that Obama wants to tap the
clamoring for change in America by all, including Republicans. He
wants to be a unifier to lead this effort for positive change in
America.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this race, Obama has already
made history by winning in Iowa as the first black presidential
candidate. The fact that it happened in Iowa, the first state to vote
in primaries and the state with more than 90% whites, is particularly
encouraging for those of us looking for big changes in the US.
Comparing the hard-fought primaries for the political parties here in
the US with the political parties in Pakistan, the less said the
better. In Pakistan, Hilary Clinton would have already been crowned
the leader of her party for life. It would be quick and efficient and
still be considered entirely "democratic".
I have received a number of questions from my Pakistani friends on
Obama's views from Pakistani perspective. Here is how I explain what
Obama's win is likely to mean for Pakistan:

The US presidential elections are won mainly on domestic issues except
the last election in the aftermath of 911 where security issues
figured prominently and George W. Bush won. Obama made statements
about unilaterally sending US troops into Pakistan that were widely
ridiculed in the US. He has since backtracked on
those statements. US presidential candidates (with a few exceptions)
are not very knowledgeable about the world and rely mainly on experts
when the time comes to make policy. Obama will do the same, if he gets
any further from the first two or three primaries. Democrats in
general tend to favor democracy and human rights (since the Carter
administration) rather than dictators often favored by Republicans.
Democrats also tend to be more pro-India and pro-Israel
but usually are not pro-war. They are likely to emphasize soft power
and diplomacy if they win the White House. A Democrat in the White
House is not going to be good for President Musharraf,unless Musharraf
really changes his ways.
The Democrats will probably reach out more to the civil society and
political parties in Pakistan. The bottom line will still be to
support secular forces and weaken the religious elements. Maulana
Fazlur Rahman may be an exception to this. He is seen as someone who
can help neutralize the anti-US elements in NWFP and Baluchistan.

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