The United States should not interfere in the domestic political affairs of Pakistan, said speakers at a moot convened by Pakistan Progressive Forum in Anaheim, CA on Sunday.
The day-long event entitled ‘Organizing Progressive Diaspora in the United States’ brought together medical practitioners, engineers, IT professionals and activists from North America. The purpose of the meeting was to find ways of engaging with progressive social movements in the United States.
Dr Ammar Ali Jan, leader of Haqooq e Khalq Party, was a special guest at the event. Jan discussed the ongoing situation in Pakistan highlighting the state crisis, the elitist nature of Pakistan’s economy and climate emergency. He also apprised the group of his efforts to organize working poor and middle-class communities in Lahore and other places.
“A vacuum is opening due to the discredited political system”, claimed Jan as he lamented that right-wing groups were taking advantage. But the progressive political forces could also find this moment extremely propitious “as progressive ideas have increased traction in recent years,” the progressive grassroots leader said. Jan also cited the example of anti-Taliban protests in Swat, the workers’ protests in Faisalabad and elsewhere, and other peaceful uprisings as indications of “a changing landscape”.
Gullali, a doctoral student at University of California shared the pitfalls of community mobilisation by progressive groups. She also urged why an alternate media was important to inform and educate the people.
In the second session, American progressives Derek Marshall (candidate for Congress), Alex Mohajer (candidate for state senate), and Hanieh Jodat, policy director for the campaign of Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, spoke about the necessity of local communities to organize around issues of economic and social justice and climate to contribute to social change. Mohajer and Marshall presented a grim picture of poverty, deprivation and fading hope of people in the system that needed to be revived.
Mohajer and Jodat, children of Iranian immigrants, made their mark in US politics and shared their experiences of organizing communities. Jodat, a campaigner for Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the past, emphasized why diaspora voices mattered in US politics and society, and how the conditions were ripe for challenging the corporate controlled democratic system. She called on Pakistani communities to engage with candidates and support them for a better future for the younger generations.
Dr Zaffar Iqbal, chairman Public Broadcasting Network Inc. recounted his efforts in engaging with the Bernie Sanders campaign and Democratic party. He apprised the participants on the strategies employed and the necessity of Pakistani Americans to involve in local politics and movements for change.
During the open discussion, alleged human rights abuses by the current government in Pakistan were also mentioned, and participants expressed their concern at the reports. However, many were of the view that opposing the army’s crackdown on PTI was not akin to giving blanket support to Imran Khan’s style of politics, especially in light of the violent attacks carried out by his supporters on May 9 following his brief arrest.
PTI’s campaign to involve US Congresspersons and other officials in Pakistan’s domestic politics was a “red flag”, Dr Umar Murad from Kentucky said. Others also held that the United States must not be encouraged to meddle into Pakistan’s domestic affairs. The country had already paid a heavy price for past US interference and support to military dictators. Some of the participants affiliated with Left groups termed this as an affront to Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Pakistan was trapped between military authoritarianism and right-wing populism and both choices were against the welfare of the masses, added Amir Mahmood. Supporting progressive politics and movements were the need of the hour.
“It was essential to apprise the US Left of the complexity of Pakistani politics as their lack of nuance in commentaries was apparent in recent months”, said Tabby Spence, a doctoral student at American University, Washington DC.
Both sessions were moderated by Raza Rumi, who concluded the session by calling for a concrete strategy to establish local and national chapters of progressive Pakistanis who can make their voices heard. “Pakistani professionals are already contributing to this society, and it is time they engaged with the political and policy processes in the United States in a constructive manner”.
The event was organized by the Pakistan Progressive Forum (PPF). The PPF is a coalition of progressive Pakistani individuals and groups in the diaspora. It brings together a cross section of activists from three generations, and a tradition that traces its roots over a hundred years. It is the largest representative body of progressive Pakistanis in the United States of America.
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