The man who became a senator at the age of 43 and the senator who would now become the president at the age of 47. Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He has been a civil rights lawyer, a community organizer and an academic (he taught constitutional law at University of Chicago Law School for 12 years).
America has been holding presidential elections for the past 224 years but this 56th quadrennial presidential election is unique in more ways than one. This is the first time that an African-American has been nominated by a major American political party as their presidential nominee. This is the first time that two sitting US senators are running against each other. This is the first time that the Republicans and the Democrats have nominated nominees who were both born outside the continental Untied States; Obama was born at Kapi’olani Medical Centre for Women & Children in Honolulu , Hawaii , and McCain in the Panama Canal Zone (up until 1999, the zone was administered by the US under a perpetual lease). If and when Obama wins, Senator Joe Biden would be America’s first Roman Catholic vice-president.
Interestingly, Barack Obama II has a Jacobabad connection. The man who would be the president of the United States and Muhammed Hasan Chandio, a financial consultant who now lives in Armonk in the town of North Caste in Westchester County, are college friends (Chandio is a Baloch tribe in Sindh). In 1981, at the age of 20, Obama visited Karachi and stayed with Hasan Chandio’s family. Exactly 27 years ago, Obama was hosted by the Honourable Ahmad Mian Soomro at his Muhammad Ali Society residence. Obama then went on to Jacobabad on a partridge hunting trip and was once again Ahmad Mian Soomro’s guest.
Intriguingly, in 1981 the Soviet-Afghan war was at its peak and the US Department of State had a warning for Americans travelling to Pakistan. There is speculation that Obama who at that time also travelled under his Muslim name of Barry Soetero may have travelled to Pakistan using an Indonesian passport. For the record, Barack Obama Jr was born to Barack Obama Sr, a black Kenyan, and Ann Dunham, a white American. Barack Obama Sr and Ann Dunham were divorced when their son was two. Obama Sr met his son only once after the divorce (Obama Sr died in a car accident in 1982). Ann Dunham later married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian Muslim (Obama’s mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995). Barack is married to Michelle and the two have two offspring, Malia Ann and Natasha.
Obama recently stated that he learnt the Sunni-Shia distinction while he was in Pakistan. Does he also know that Jacobabad has a literacy of 23 per cent, the lowest in Sindh? And that illiteracy and crimes of honour are correlated? And that Jacobabad has the highest rate of crimes of honour; an average of 90 honour killings a year (Hyderabad has a literacy rate of 44 per cent and an average of five honour killings a year)?
How would America’s Jacobabad policy be under an Obama administration? To be certain, America is a nation-state with multiple centres of power and America’s foreign policy is the result of a process — not a person. The White House is a centre of power and so is the Department of State, the Department of Defence, the intelligence community, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the media and the think-tank community. All these centres of power interact and also fight turf wars. America’s Pakistan policy is — and will be — the consequence of this interaction as well as the interdepartmental turf battles.
Obama has said a lot between February 2007, when he announced his presidential campaign, and now. I consider most of that as rhetoric part of a political campaign to entice American voters. In the meanwhile, all of America’s power centres have been interacting and infighting to determine America’s direction in South Asia. Based on what is being leaked to the media by America’s intelligence community, the additional combat brigades being ordered by CENTCOM and a whole host of other factors it appears that an Obama administration — or McCain for that matter — will be expanding the South Asian war theatre.
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist firstname.lastname@example.org
The News, Sunday, November 02, 2008