Barack Obama’s Pakistan Connections

Posted on September 1, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations, Pakistanis Abroad, People
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Adil Najam

Most Pakistanis seem to like Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic Party candidate for President. However, for most, Senator Obama’s “Pakistan Connections” were limited to (a) his rather strong words about Pakistan, including about sending troops into Pakistan, and (b) his choice of Senator Joeseph Biden, who has a long and deep interest in foreign affairs, including Pakistan. Most Pakistanis are not very fond of the first of these connections. The second connection they like, especially because Senator Biden has been the key architect of a new, very generous and quite sensible support package for Pakistan.

It turns out, however, that Barack Obama may have slightly deeper and more personal connections to Pakistan. But, frankly, only very slightly deeper and only very slightly personal.

First, there is the story circulating around that Barak Obama’s mother lived in Pakistan for five years. It is quite clear that Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, did indeed work and live in Pakistan as a consultant to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), working on a project in Gujranwalla (here, here, here). However, I must confess that I have serious doubts if she actually “lived” in Pakistan (i.e., Pakistan was her primary residence) for five years.

The “5-year” conjecture is based on a headline in the Daily Waqt that proclaims that “Obama’s Mother Stayed in Pakistan for 5 Years.” My own sense is that this may be a case of a bad translation and/or an erroneous headline.

Here is why I think this is so: first, the type of work she is reported to have been doing for the ADB would usually require occasional and repeated visits but not permanent placement; second,  if it did, it is unlikely that she would have stayed in a 5-star hotel the entire time as the report alleges. Here is the Daily Waqt report in question:

The mother of American Presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, Mrs. Ann Dunham lived in Pakistan for five years. During this time, Barack Obama also visited his mother and stayed for a few month. Mrs. Ann Dunham was hired as a consultant by the Asian Development Bank for Pakistan Agricultural Development Bank’s Gujranwalla Agricultural Development Program. This program began in 1987 and ended in 1992.

Mrs. Ann Dunham monitored the funds received for this program from the Asian Development Bank and trained the Mobile Credit Officers of the Agricultural Bank. This program was controlled from the Gujranwalla Regional Office. She stayed for five years in the Hilton International Hotel (now Avari Hotel), Lahore. She travelled daily from Lahore to Gujranwalla. When Barack Obama visited Pakistan, he stayed in the same hotel. After returning from Pakistan, she died from cancer within three years.

Second, Barack Obama has himself visited Pakistan. Indeed, Barack Obama may have visited Pakistan for longer than any U.S. President or presidential candidate ever has. As so many college students do, he seemed eager to see the world. He was in Karachi in 1981 as a young student, returning from a visit to his mother in Indonesia. According to a New York Times report:

…Mr. Obama also spoke about having traveled to Pakistan in the early 1980s. Because of that trip, which he did not mention in either of his autobiographical books, “I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” he said… According to his campaign staff, Mr. Obama visited Pakistan in 1981, on the way back from Indonesia, where his mother and half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, were living. He spent “about three weeks” there, Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Bill Burton, said, staying in Karachi with the family of a college friend, Mohammed Hasan Chandoo, but also traveling to Hyderabad, in India.

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Finally, as mentioned in the excerpt above, Senator Obama had a number of Pakistani friends during his college days, and it was that friendship that brought him to Pakistan. Some details, again, from the same New York Times report:

…In Dreams from My Father, he talks of having a Pakistani roommate when he moved to New York, a man he calls Sadik who “had overstayed his tourist visa and now made a living in New York’s high-turnover, illegal immigrant work force, waiting on tables”… During his years at Occidental College, Mr. Obama also befriended Wahid Hamid, a fellow student who was an immigrant from Pakistan and traveled with Mr. Obama there, the Obama campaign said. Mr. Hamid is now a vice president at Pepsico in New York, and according to public records, has donated the maximum $2,300 to the Obama campaign and is listed as a fund-raiser for it. Mr. Chandoo is now a self-employed financial consultant, living in Armonk, N.Y. He has also donated the maximum, $2,300, to Mr. Obama’s primary campaign and an additional $309 for the general election, campaign finance records show.

An Associated Press story on Obama’s college friends has more interesting snippets. Especially his relationship with Sohale Siddiqi, from Karachi, is fascinating – all the more to the Pakistani reader:

The way Sohale Siddiqi remembers it, he and his old roommate were walking his pug Charlie on Broadway when a large, scary bum approached them, stomping on the ground near the dog’s head. This was in the 1980s, a time when New York was a fearful place beset by drugs and crime, when the street smart knew that the best way to handle the city’s derelicts was to avoid them entirely. But Siddiqi was angry and he confronted the man, who approached him menacingly. Until his skinny, elite univerity-educated friend – Barack Obama – intervened. He “stepped right in between. … He planted his face firmly in the face of the guy. ‘Hey, hey, hey.’ And the guy backpedaled and we kept walking,” Siddiqi recalls.

…Obama spent the six years between 1979 and 1985 at Occidental College in Los Angeles and then in New York at Columbia University and in the workplace. His memoir, Dreams from My Father, talks about this time, but not in great detail; Siddiqi, for example, is identified only as “Sadik” _ “a short, well-built Pakistani” who smoked marijuana, snorted cocaine and liked to party. Obama’s campaign wouldn’t identify “Sadik,” but The Associated Press located him in Seattle, where he raises money for a community theater. Together, the recollections of Siddiqi and other friends and acquaintances from Obama’s college years paint a portrait of the candidate as a young man. They remember a good student with a sharp mind and unshakable integrity, a young man who already had a passion for the underprivileged. Some described the young Obama’s personality as confident to the point of arrogance, a criticism that would emerge decades later, during the campaign.

Not everyone who knew Obama in those years is eager to talk. Some explained that they feared inadvertently hurting Obama’s campaign. Among his friends were Siddiqi and two other Pakistanis, all of them from Karachi; several of those interviewed said the Pakistanis were reluctant to talk for fear of stoking rumors that Obama is a Muslim. “Obama in the eyes of some right wingers is basically Muslim until proved innocent,” says Margot Mifflin, a friend from Occidental who is now a journalism professor at New York’s Lehman College. “It’s partly the Muslim factor by association and partly the fear of something being twisted.”

…Of course, he was only 18 when he arrived at the small liberal arts college nicknamed “Oxy.” His freshman roommates were Imad Husain, a Pakistani, who’s now a Boston banker, and Paul Carpenter, now a Los Angeles lawyer… Obama had an international circle of friends _ “a real eclectic sort of group,” says Vinai Thummalapally, who himself came from Hyderabad, India. As a freshman, he quickly became friends with Mohammed Hasan Chandoo and Wahid Hamid, two wealthy Pakistanis.

In 1981, Obama transferred from Occidental to Columbia. In between, he traveled to Pakistan – a trip that enhanced his foreign policy qualifications, he maintained in a private speech at a San Francisco fundraiser last month. Obama spent “about three weeks” in Pakistan, traveling with Hamid and staying in Karachi with Chandoo’s family, said Bill Burton, Obama’s press secretary. “He was clearly shocked by the economic disparity he saw in Pakistan. He couldn’t get over the sight of rural peasants bowing to the wealthy landowners they worked for as they passed,” says Margot Mifflin, who makes a brief appearance in Obama’s memoir.

When Obama arrived in New York, he already knew Siddiqi – a friend of Chandoo’s and Hamid’s from Karachi who had visited Los Angeles. Looking back, Siddiqi acknowledges that he and Obama were an odd couple. Siddiqi would mock Obama’s idealism – he just wanted to make a lot of money and buy things, while Obama wanted to help the poor. “At that age, I thought he was a saint and a square, and he took himself too seriously,” Siddiqi said. “I would ask him why he was so serious. He was genuinely concerned with the plight of the poor. He’d give me lectures, which I found very boring. He must have found me very irritating.”

Siddiqi offered the most expansive account of Obama as a young man. “We were both very lost. We were both alienated, although he might not put it that way. He arrived disheveled and without a place to stay,” said Siddiqi, who at the time worked as a waiter and as a salesman at a boutique… In about 1982, Siddiqi and Obama got an apartment at a sixth-floor walkup on East 94th Street. Siddiqi managed to get the apartment thanks to subterfuge. “We didn’t have a chance in hell of getting this apartment unless we fabricated the lease application,” Siddiqi said. Siddiqi fudged his credentials, saying he had a high-paying job at a catering company, but Obama “wanted no part of it. He put down the truth.”

The apartment was “a slum of a place” in a drug-ridden neighborhood filled with gunshots, he said. “It wasn’t a comfortable existence. We were slumming it.” What little furniture they had was found on the street, and guests would have to hold their dinner plates in their laps. While Obama has acknowledged using marijuana and cocaine during high school in Hawaii, he writes in the memoir that he stopped using soon after his arrival in New York. His roommate had no such scruples. But Siddiqi says that during their time together here, Obama always refused his offers of drugs.

…Siddiqi said his female friends thought Obama was “a hunk.” “We were always competing,” he said. “You know how it is. You go to a bar and you try hitting on the girls. He had a lot more success. I wouldn’t out-compete him in picking up girls, that’s for sure.” Obama was a tolerant roommate. Siddiqi’s mother, who had never been around a black man, came to visit and she was rude; Obama was nothing but polite. Siddiqi himself could be intemperate – he called Obama an Uncle Tom, but “he was really patient. I’m surprised he suffered me.” Finally, their relationship started to fray. “I was partying all the time. I was disrupting his studies,” Siddiqi said. Obama moved out.

… Neither Hamid nor Chandoo would be interviewed for this story; Hamid is now a top executive at Pepsico in New York, and Chandoo is a self-employed financial consultant in the New York area. Both have each contributed the maximum $2,300 to Obama’s campaign, and records indicate each has joined an Asian-American council that supports his run for president. Both also are listed on Obama’s campaign Web site as being among his top fundraisers, each bringing in between $100,000 and $200,000 in contributions from their networks of friends. Both also attended Obama’s wedding in 1992, according to published reports and other friends.

Thummalapally has stayed in contact with Obama, too, visiting him in New York, attending his wedding in 1992 and joining him in Springfield, Illinois., for the Feb. 10, 2007, announcement of Obama’s run for the White House. President of a CD and DVD manufacturing company in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Thummalapally also is listed as a top fundraiser on the campaign Web site.

Siddiqi has not kept in touch. His has been a difficult road; years after his time with Obama, Siddiqi says, he became addicted to cocaine and lost his business. But when he needed help during his recovery, Obama – the roommate he drove away with his partying, the man he always suspected of looking down at him – gave him a job reference. So yes, he’s an Obama man, too. Witness the message on his answering machine: “My name is Hal Siddiqi, and I approve of this message. Vote for peace, vote for hope, vote for change, and vote for Obama.”

But the most interesting account, even more interesting than the yarn about Hal Siddiqi comes from Barack Obama himself, in his book Dreams from My Father. Here are some excerpts from Chapter 6:

I SPENT MY FIRST NIGHT in Manhattan curled up in an alleyway. It wasn’t intentional; while still in L.A., I had heard that a friend of a friend would be vacating her apartment in Spanish Harlem, near Columbia, and that given New York’s real estate market I’d better grab it while I could. An agreement was reached; I wired ahead with the date of my August arrival; and after dragging my luggage through the airport, the subways, Times Square, and across 109th from Broadway to Amsterdam, I finally stood at the door, a few minutes past ten P.M.

I pressed the buzzer repeatedly, but no one answered. The street was empty, the buildings on either side boarded up, a bulk of rectangular shadows. Eventually, a young Puerto Rican woman emerged from the building, throwing a nervous look my way before heading down the street. I rushed to catch the door before it slammed shut, and, pulling my luggage behind me, proceeded upstairs to knock, and then bang, on the apartment door. Again, no answer, just a sound down the hall of a deadbolt thrown into place.

New York. Just like I pictured it. I checked my wallet-not enough money for a motel. I knew one person in New York, a guy named Sadik whom I’d met in L.A., but he’d told me that he worked all night at a bar somewhere. With nothing to do but wait, I carried my luggage back downstairs and sat on the stoop. After a while, I reached into my back pocket, pulling out the letter I’d been carrying since leaving L.A. …

It was well past midnight by the time I crawled through a fence that led to an alleyway. I found a dry spot, propped my luggage beneath me, and fell asleep, the sound of drums softly shaping my dreams. In the morning, I woke up to find a white hen pecking at the garbage near my feet. Across the street, a homeless man was washing himself at an open hydrant and didn’t object when I joined him. There was still no one home at the apartment, but Sadik answered his phone when I called him and told me to catch a cab to his place on the Upper East Side.

He greeted me on the street, a short, well-built Pakistani who had come to New York from London two years earlier and found his caustic wit and unabashed desire to make money perfectly pitched to the city’s mood. He had overstayed his tourist visa and now made a living in New York’s high-turnover, illegal immigrant workforce, waiting on tables. As we entered the apartment I saw a woman in her underwear sitting at the kitchen table, a mirror and a razor blade pushed off to one side.

“Sophie,” Sadik started to say, “this is Barry –”

“Barack,” I corrected, dropping my bags on the floor. The woman waved vaguely, then told Sadik that she’d be gone by the time he got back. I followed Sadik back downstairs and into a Greek coffee shop across the street. I apologized again about having called so early.

“Don’t worry about it,” Sadik said. “She seemed much prettier last night.” He studied the menu, then set it aside. “So tell me, Bar-sorry. Barack. Tell me, Barack. What brings you to our fair city?”

I tried to explain. I had spent the summer brooding over a misspent youth, I said-the state of the world and the state of my soul. “I want to make amends,” I said. “Make myself of some use.”

Sadik broke open the yolk of an egg with his fork. “Well, amigo…you can talk all you want about saving the world, but this city tends to eat away at such noble sentiments. Look out there.” He gestured to the crowd along First Avenue. “Everybody looking out for number one. Survival of the fittest. Tooth and claw. Elbow the other guy out of the way. That, my friend, is New York. But…” He shrugged and mopped up some egg with his toast. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the exception. In which case I will doff my hat to you.”

Sadik tipped his coffee cup toward me in mock salute, his eyes searching for any immediate signs of change. And in the coming months he would continue to observe me as I traveled, like a large lab rat, through the byways of Manhattan. He would suppress a grin when the seat I had offered to a middle-aged woman on the subway was snatched up by a burly young man. At Bloomingdale’s, he would lead me past human mannequins who spritzed perfume into the air and watch my reaction as I checked over the eye-popping price tags on winter coats. He would offer me lodging again when I gave up the apartment on 109th for lack of heat, and accompany me to Housing Court when it turned out that the sublessors of my second apartment had failed to pay the rent and run off with my deposit.

“Tooth and claw, Barack. Stop worrying about the rest of these bums out here and figure out how you’re going to make some money out of this fancy degree you’ll be getting.”

When Sadik lost his own lease, we moved in together. And after a few months of closer scrutiny, he began to realize that the city had indeed had an effect on me, although not the one he’d expected. I stopped getting high. I ran three miles a day and fasted on Sundays. For the first time in years, I applied myself to my studies and started keeping a journal of daily reflections and very bad poetry. Whenever Sadik tried to talk me into hitting a bar, I’d beg off with some tepid excuse, too much work or not enough cash. One day, before leaving the apartment in search of better company, he turned to me and offered his most scathing indictment.

“You’re becoming a bore.”

I knew he was right, although I wasn’t sure myself what exactly had happened. In a way, I was confirming Sadik’s estimation of the city’s allure, I suppose; its consequent power to corrupt. With the Wall Street boom, Manhattan was humming, new developments cropping up everywhere; men and women barely out of their twenties already enjoying ridiculous wealth, the fashion merchants fast on their heels. The beauty, the filth, the noise, and the excess, all of it dazzled my senses; there seemed no constraints on originality of lifestyles or the manufacture of desire-a more expensive restaurant, a finer suit of clothes, a more exclusive nightspot, a more beautiful woman, a more potent high. Uncertain of my ability to steer a course of moderation, fearful of falling into old habits, I took on the temperament if not the convictions of a street corner preacher, prepared to see temptation everywhere, ready to overrun a fragile will.

In case you have not already guessed, the mysterious “Sadik” is our freind “Sohale [Hal] Siddiqi” from above.

So, what does all of this mean? Probably nothing. At best, next to nothing.

Some Pakistanis might want to get all excited about these connections. But, frankly, they will be as misguided in doing so as would be Obama-bashers who would like to concoct deep conspiracies and imagine dark implications of these amusing, but eventually inconsequential and incidental, connections of a young student.

88 Comments on “Barack Obama’s Pakistan Connections”

  1. ASAD says:
    September 2nd, 2008 2:48 am


    What an amazing story.

    This Hal Siddiqi guy is quite something. I can just picture him. Not surprising that things turned out for him the way they did. He is the type of guy our parents told us to keep away from!

  2. faisal says:
    September 2nd, 2008 4:56 am

    That puts is in a great position to fetch more aid from the USA and then still curse her in kind.

  3. D_a_n says:
    September 2nd, 2008 7:13 am

    excellent post :)… very good read…

  4. Harris Siddiqui says:
    September 2nd, 2008 7:58 am

    Interesting story. The guy really knows his way around words.
    God help Pakistan if Obama-Biden ticket gets elected.

  5. Riaz Haq says:
    September 2nd, 2008 10:43 am

    It is understandable that Pakistani-Americans are naturally attracted to Senator Barack Husain Obama, partly because of his Muslim connection, but also because of Pakistani-Americans’ distaste for Republicans under George W. Bush and the excesses committed by US under the banner of war on terror.
    However, I personally share the concerns of many Americans who worry about Obama’s lack of experience. My worries are particularly heightened by Mr. Obama’s hawkish statements about sending US military into Pakistan. What if Mr. Obama goes on a new, much more disastrous adventure into Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas and FATA right after he pulls US troops from Iraq? What if he significantly enlarges the Afghan war in the same way that the Vietnam war became a regional Indo-China war by vicious bombing and invasion of Laos and Cambodia by the US?
    I invite you to read more of my views on this subject at:

  6. Alia says:
    September 2nd, 2008 10:44 am

    Very interesting information.

    Loved the picture of Obama’s mother in a shalwar Kameez!

  7. Saeed Ahmed says:
    September 2nd, 2008 11:01 am

    Excellent Post Najam Sahib.

    I didn’t know Mr. Obama has been friend to some Pakistanis in his student life.

    If whatever he wrote in his book is correct and he still thinks like that, then he wont be supporting injustice to any one, including Pakistan.
    Lets hope for the best.

  8. Anwar says:
    September 2nd, 2008 11:52 am

    Great post.
    Foreign policy is shaped by a group of people who influence or advise the president. I think Pakistan will be OK when Barak is president compared to a republican guy… but it is important for Pakistan to stand on its own feet rather than finding a country to plug its umbilical chord to…

  9. Farmaan says:
    September 2nd, 2008 12:08 pm

    If this Sohail Siddiqi or Sadik guy was Obama’s most important Pakistani influence then I cannot imagine that he has too high a regard for Pakistanis. He seems an interesting but rather unreliable character and his values seem to be just as opposite those of Obama as one can imagine. I just hope that his other two Pakistani friends (Hamid and Chandoo) were better influences on him and gave Obama a more nuanced view of Pakistan and Pakistanis than Sadik would have.

    But, this really so very interesting to read.

  10. Farmaan says:
    September 2nd, 2008 12:11 pm

    By the way, I think the most important influence on Obama on Pakistan would have been whatever his mother would have shared with him on her experiences of working in Pakistan. That she was working on development issues in Pakistan is very heartening because I think that would help him understand that not just in Pakistan but everywhere it is development that matters more than all the military and diplomacy moves you can make. I hope he took that lesson from her for Pakistan as well as the rest of the world.

  11. MQ says:
    September 2nd, 2008 12:20 pm

    Dreams From My Father is a great read. And Obama has a fascinating story. Americans are generally accused, and rightly so, of having very little knowledge of other cultures. You cannot pin that accusation on Obama. He is probably the most educated — in the broadest sense of the word — candidate the US ever had.

    Those who point out his lack of experience should look at John Kennedy

  12. Aamir Al says:
    September 2nd, 2008 12:36 pm

    Obama is even more inexperienced than George W Bush when he came to office. Just because someone spent some time in Indonesia in their childhood does not mean that person necessarily knows about the world. John McCain on the other hand has spent his entire life in foreign affairs, including visits to the Khyber Pass.

    I find it really strange Pakistanis sudden love for Obama. Please dont forget how Democrats are with respect to Pakistan, versus Republicans.

  13. Perwez says:
    September 2nd, 2008 12:57 pm

    I just wish to say that no candidate in the history of US presidencial race has repeatedly avowed to attack Pakistan except Obama. For sure, Obama has a clear cut foreign policy: To remove all troops from Iraq and concentrate fully on Afg/Pak border and make the aid to Pakistan more stringent and conditional. And bye the way, my opinion is based on direct evidence and facts, of repeated assertions by Obama on public stage.

    I dont understand what is the reason people criticize Imran Khan for terming Obama as scarier than McCain. Those people should brace themselves for a major disappointment.

  14. September 2nd, 2008 2:05 pm

    Obama’s anti-pakistan attitude seriously worries alot of Pakistan’s.

  15. Qaseem says:
    September 2nd, 2008 3:23 pm

    I must say I am rather surprised at some of the comments here. Maybe I am moving in the wrong circle of Pakistanis, but I do not know of a single Pakistani who does not like Obama. I cannot imagine why anyone, Pakistani or not, would want 4 more years of McBush! Also, in case people are forgetting it, Obama is running for President of America, not President of Pakistan. His job is to do that which is good for USA, not for Pakistan and he has given ample proof that he is able and capable of doing that. If we want good things to happen to Pakistan, maybe we Pakistanis should start doing that ourselves rather than waiting for the right “American President” for us!

  16. Qaseem says:
    September 2nd, 2008 3:24 pm

    By the way, I also find the stories about Obama’s Pakistani college friends fascinating. I think that would have given him a deeper sense of Pakistanis than all the visits to Khyber pass and foreign policy briefings put together.

  17. PMA says:
    September 2nd, 2008 4:58 pm

    If president Obama follows his rhetoric regarding Pakistan by his stated intended actions (which I think given the opportunity he will not) then I would say it will be good for the Pakistani masses in the long run. For too long Pakistani rulers……..and that includes politicians, generals and bureaucrats……. have been grazing on the dole commonly called foreign aid. How else could be explained those thousands of children of our civil and military officers presently residing and schooling in the USA. Certainly not from the meager salaries of their parents in Pakistan……..

    Our rulers time and again have sold the nation to American interests for their own selfish reasons. Whoever thinks that foreign aid comes to the developing countries without strings attached lives in fools paradise. For the rulers in the recipient countries the foreign aid comes as a revenue for which they do not have to answer or tax their own population. But in the process the recipient nation is mortgaged by her rulers to the donner’s international interests. Look the way Pakistani army has been rented out in the last thirty years.

    I wish Obama becomes president and gives Pakistani rulers a kick in the pants. Then may be our rulers will stop being subservient to the donners and try to live within their own means.

  18. Eidee Man says:
    September 2nd, 2008 6:06 pm

    PMA, that’s an interesting point you make. I wish Pakistan could get 10 years alone so it could go through the process of learning to build and maintain institutions.

    However, I seriously doubt that the U.S. will withdraw aid, blood money, whatever you want to call it. All indications are that Pakistan is going to become even more important to the U.S. and its allies in the coming decade. Afghanistan is nowhere near stable, the emerging power-house China is not exactly America’s best friend, Russia is starting to reassert its Cold-War position, India will soon fall out of favor when it becomes even more powerful (which it will, pretty soon), and then there is Iran. The truth is that Pakistan has been a great asset to the U.S. and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

  19. Eidee Man says:
    September 2nd, 2008 11:12 pm

    BTW, Obama’s first name has been consistently misspelled in this article. It’s “Barack,” not “Barak.”

  20. Rasheed says:
    September 3rd, 2008 2:03 am

    How Pakistani is Obama? Well, even if his mom stayed here for five years and he visited many times and had langotia yaars in Karachi, he still can’t be more Pakistani than Musharraf, who sold the country (deliberately or not). So don’t expect much from any Pakistani connections the man might have or remember. Besides, if these are his connections with Pakistan, his image of Pakistanis would be that of a bunch of womanizing drug addicts who violated the law and did odd jobs. His words speak louder than any perceived connections, and his actions are yet to be seen. Even if he becomes prez, I don’t believe he can withdraw the two long noses — Negroponte and Boucher — stuck deep within Pakistan’s business, or others like them that will be quick to assume such positions in his administration.

  21. AHsn says:
    September 3rd, 2008 8:44 am
  22. Zenubia says:
    September 3rd, 2008 3:17 pm

    Great insight into Obama’s love-hate relationship with Pakistanis. We can only hope that sanity will prevail in Washington and we will be left to our own devices – good or bad. With examples of one crackpot dictator after another and successions of self-serving politicians in between; we have seen things go from bad to worse under the patronage of Washington. If Obama has our best interest at heart; he will just let us be…

  23. September 3rd, 2008 4:11 pm

    excellent post .. well researched. ATP rocks

  24. AZMAT says:
    September 4th, 2008 2:20 am

    Very interesting information. I think this Hal Siddiqi guy is as interesting as Obama itself.

    On Obama’s Pakistani connections, I think Prof. Najam’s assessment is exactly right. As he writes: “So, what does all of this mean? Probably nothing. At best, next to nothing.”

    those who are trying to read more into this are deluding themselves.

    As for Obama himself. I must say he is the type of guy who gives you confidence in democracy and human dignity again. May Pakistan one day be blessed with politicians like Barack Omaba.

  25. Rubab says:
    September 4th, 2008 9:08 pm
  26. Junaid says:
    September 7th, 2008 1:55 am

    Fascinating account. Did not know of these connections. But as you say they do not mean much. This is a very intelligent man and a man with principles and a heart. He will do what is best for America and as President of America that is what his job will be.

    Now, as others say, if only we could get a few politicians like him too!

  27. Qureshi says:
    September 7th, 2008 6:49 pm

    You know, by writing this you have opened the doors for al sorts of crazy Obama haters to take this and twist it into conspiracies about Obama and muslims and Pakistan. He has enough problems already, lets not make his “Pakistan connections” another one.

  28. Michael says:
    September 8th, 2008 8:09 am

    Obama gives you confidence in democracy again. He will be good for the world and good for America if he is elected.

  29. Fred says:
    September 14th, 2008 1:14 am

    Obama’s problem is not that he’s met some Pakis or been to Pakistan. No sane person has a problem with that. Pakis are good people too. The big problem is that Obama doesn’t really know what America is. He’s an outsider from the truth and reality of American culture and history.

    In his speeches, he never emphasizes freedom, liberty, independence and self-reliance. He never honors the individual person who achieves, through independent self-reliance, the freedom and liberty and prosperity that everyone in the world wants.

    That is why he will not be elected president of America. He is a cultural outsider – he does not understand what makes America great. He does not see that crucial fact: that when he takes away our freedom to fail as well as succeed – and when he takes away our self-reliance by expanding the welfare state – he is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. His stated policies will throw America and the whole world into a deep economic depression. His policies will make us all equally poor. And that is a future that I do not want to see.

    He may be the nicest guy I’ve never met; but he is an extremely poor choice for the top job running any country, much less America.

  30. matt says:
    September 14th, 2008 6:06 pm

    Obama like every other american is an outsider every Americans grand daddy stepped off a ship or crossed the border at some point in time in the last 250 years. Immigrant thats what you and me are . I landed here 3 yrs back and now I am a citizen and I will do everything to keep myself and my family . That is the true american culture…. immigrants built this country. Oh by the way I immigrated and enlisted in the army …been to baghdad ………and I will vote keep my immigrant(american) dream alive.
    Its not mud slinging and living the easy life….so get educated work hard , take the risk…

  31. AZRA says:
    September 27th, 2008 5:08 am

    Why do people keep misquoting Obama. He clearly said that he is NOT talking about attacking Pakistan, but saing that IF the US has credible information and IF Pakistan is unable to do something about that then and only then will US act. It is the Republicans who are attacking now and really without any reason.

  32. Nasir Khan says:
    September 29th, 2008 10:36 pm

    First I planned to vote Obama, now I change my mind after his first speech. I don’t want any president openly threatened Pakistan. That is also my homeland. I have born in Pakistan. I love USA and Pakistan equally. God bless USA and Pakistan. Vote for Mccain.

  33. Bobby Strong says:
    October 7th, 2008 1:53 am

    ever notice how Obama pronounces it “Pock-eee-stonn”. the rest of us say “packi-stan”. he doesn’t apply the vowel pronunciations to the names of any other places over there.

  34. ASAD says:
    October 7th, 2008 10:17 pm

    I am just hearing the Obama-McCain debate and I think the one clearly more dangerous for Pakistan and the world is McCain.

    First, the senile McCain keeps misquoting Obama. Obama says “if Paksitan is unwilling and unable” and McCain chants that he is going to attack. I think it is the neoconservative McCain that really wants to bomb Pakistan.

    Notice, he is saying that “I will not advertise”. So he is going to attack but without attacking.

    I used to respect McCain but this new face of his disgusts me. He is just using Pakistan as a tactic to hit on his opponent. Disgusting Republican!

  35. HUSSAIN says:
    October 7th, 2008 10:41 pm

    I think you are right. The republicans are purposely making an issue out of this and lying about what Obama is saying. By the way, I also have this growing feeling about McCain, who I always thought was generally a good guy as being bitter and angry and just plain nasty. That is how he sounded in the debate today.

  36. Ali Dada says:
    October 9th, 2008 12:22 am

    Such is the connection that he always expresses his desire to attack Pakistan….GO OBAMA 08!!!

  37. Riaz Haq says:
    October 9th, 2008 1:30 am

    From everything I have seen so far, I think Obama’s presidency will be dangerous for Pakistan and the world. He has no clue about FATA and he wants to go in there, in sharp contrast to the new consensus emerging among Bush national security team, UK, NATO and UN to begin talks with militants because a clear military victory in Afghanistan is not going to be possible. He is a novice when it comes to foreign policy and national security, in the same way that George W. Bush was in 2000 when American Muslims helped elect him by a razor thin margin. Unfortunately, I see the same kind of irrational exuberance today among Muslim and Pakistani Americans for Obama in the close election expected in Nov 2008.

    I invite you to read:

  38. gael says:
    October 9th, 2008 9:16 am

    The Pakistan trip is important because – first – in 1981,- Americans were not allowed to travel with an American passport to Pakistan! So, what country’s passport was he using? He was adopted at 2 by an Indonesian and his school records from elementary school there show him as Indonesian. Indonesia doe snot recognze dual nationalities, so he couldn’t be “both”. When did he become an American citizen? Did he? The second piece of the Pakistan trip is: he traveled there after OxyU and before Columbia. He stayed 3 days as a guest of (nowActing Pres Pakistan)Muhammadmian Soomro . Who sponsored his transfer to Columbia? I am suspicious of the tale of his reaction to Pakistani life:

  39. Shuja says:
    October 9th, 2008 9:39 am

    Adil, Thank you for a very well research and balanced piece…..

    In in the comments what crazy nonsense is being propagated by Obama-bashers. It is amazing how much the racial issue plays here and people are just not ready to accept a black man as President… That kala-sahibs from Pakistan also cannot is not surprising, but it is sad.

  40. Shuja says:
    October 9th, 2008 9:41 am

    By the way, a very good article on this was also written by Khalid Hasan in the Daily TImes where he quotes you:

    I quote from him quoting you:

    Adil Najam writes,

  41. Khuram says:
    October 9th, 2008 11:27 am

    I feel that the society there still may not be ready to accept Obama as their President. Irrespective of what Bush administration did to the world peace and his own economy, the average citizen there is only interested in the fact that terrorism has stayed out of their borders and that is what matters. Ask any Pakistani living in Pakistan.
    Obama is an unknown quantity and he is no Bill Clinton. Will average US citizen feel safe? I have my doubts. Secondly on a lighter note I wonder how will it sound to them when it is announced that Barak Obama has been elected as the President of USA and not of some third world central African republic!!

  42. gael says:
    October 9th, 2008 1:14 pm

    The Pakistan trip is extremely important; you cannot be President of the United States unless you are a citizen of the United Sates. In 1981, apparently, he was not. He refuses to produce a birth certificate showing that he is. That concerns me.

  43. cam moll says:
    October 13th, 2008 11:21 am

    Obama’s mama was only 14 and so his daddy is not his real daddy

  44. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    October 13th, 2008 12:15 pm

    @ aik hadd-e-shauq tha,
    ham sab ka wo jenabana
    Khainch layi he sar-e-bam,
    jisko janab-e-meharbana
    Koi kehta tha, guzra tha wo,
    hamaray punjab se jab
    Raja Porus lalkarta reha,
    maidan wich aa oey !
    Ham samathtey rehay,
    Ye Sikander hey laut jaiy ga
    Magar phir bhi wo nikla,
    Gujranwalay da Obama

  45. Larry G. says:
    October 16th, 2008 10:23 pm

    It does not matter what connections Barak Obama has or not have with Pakistan or anyone else… I just want an intelligent decent man in teh White House. That is why I stand for Obama.

  46. Hamilton J. says:
    October 20th, 2008 8:00 pm

    I really urge everyone to see this.

    Here is the news that goes with this:

    “(Oct. 20) – In a confrontation caught on video, three people outside a John McCain presidential rally in Woodbridge, Va., this past weekend handed out “Obama for Change” bumper stickers that featured the Communist hammer and sickle and the Islamic crescent on them.

    One of the anti-Barack Obama protesters told McCain supporters that Islam teaches its followers to “deceive the infidels in order to progress Islam.”
    The man, who chose not to give his name, said Obama “is a socialist with Islamic background.” When pushed to back up his claim, he said, “There’s a lot of background … I can’t do that right now.”

    Several moderate McCain supporters, that included both Muslims and Christians, angrily denounced the group distributing the anti-Obama materials. A man who identified himself as a Muslim McCain delegate from the GOP convention even stepped in and said the campaign doesn’t endorse this kind of message. Under pressure, the protesters eventually left the premises.”

  47. October 23rd, 2008 4:20 am

    Who will be Beneficial to Pakistan Mr. Barackobama or Mr. Paul Mccain Share your views here

  48. Faheem from Memphis, Tennessee says:
    October 28th, 2008 11:06 pm

    Under President Obama, America will blossom into the flower that it was created to be. Or, America will implode and succumb to its 232 year process of racial bigotry and belligerent exploitation of its citizens. The chickens will come home to roost under this aministration. I predict that these events will occur early into his administration.

  49. Ted Griffith says:
    November 2nd, 2008 10:26 am

    it will be good to have an American with a global vision in the Whitehouse

    Go Obama

  50. W.S.T. says:
    November 2nd, 2008 4:02 pm

    More and more it seems like an Obama win is certain. I hope he does win. It will be a good signal for the world and good for America.

    As for Pakistan, no matter who wins it will be better than what is now!

  51. Ramesh says:
    November 3rd, 2008 10:18 pm

    Indian right wingnuts has started concocting conspiracy theories regarding Obama’s pakistani connections! What a surprise, heh?

  52. Taimur says:
    November 4th, 2008 2:05 pm

    I hope Barack Obama is elected today. It will restore faith in politics and that good, decent and intelligent people still can be elected anywhere in the world.

  53. Heer says:
    November 4th, 2008 6:23 pm

    Obama will win….i just know he will :P any person with doubts watch geo news early morning! have set bets on him….win Oby Win!

  54. Heer says:
    November 4th, 2008 6:28 pm

    Who should win the elections of all elections…for me it would be a question of who i dislike less? Mccain or Obama?
    why i dislike him less?
    i find no reason of disliking him less than i do for disliking Mccain more.
    then why Obama?
    because He is Brown…apna apna lagta hai :P
    Choice between Devil and the Deep Sea . people! :P

  55. Yaqub says:
    November 5th, 2008 12:28 pm

    Great article. Did not know about all this at all.

    I hope his Pakistani friends and his trip to Pakistan as a young man left a good impression on him

  56. Kamal Rashid says:
    November 5th, 2008 10:41 pm

    Heartiest Congratulations and Good Luck.
    What we want is Peace, Peace and Peace.

  57. November 6th, 2008 3:14 am

    Obama is good choice of USA

  58. NASSER J. says:
    November 6th, 2008 8:16 pm


  59. November 7th, 2008 12:45 am

    No matter how close would he be to our culture, the thing to be seen is his upcoming policies for Pakistan.

  60. Hyder Ali Pirwany says:
    November 8th, 2008 8:34 am

    Let us hope President Obama will help Pakistan overcome its problems so that its people prosper. Pakistan has always been pro-West but much misundestood by USA citizens.

  61. Juliua says:
    November 8th, 2008 9:28 am

    Let us hope President Obama will help Pakistan overcome its problems so that its people prosper. Pakistan has always been pro-West but much misundestood by USA citizens.

    Pakistan want piece in Pakistan as well as in America

  62. Dus says:
    November 9th, 2008 10:19 pm

    Obama will end up sending many thousands of troops into Pakistan and will cause a third front for more disaster and loss of life.

  63. shakeel odho says:
    November 10th, 2008 3:48 pm

    world is change obama is grat leadr he will be better for whole country.

  64. Sab says:
    November 11th, 2008 6:24 am

    President Obama is a man of the masses..he’s white,black,has knowledge and experience of almost every religion and culture and is overall a great man-but that doesnt mean we need him to fix our messes- who made America the world’s police?
    i think he should focus on their own problems and let us focus on ours….the so-called democracy we have here is bleeding the country dry.the US giving us more money is of no consequence to the common pakistani,the rich extortionists and theives will only get richer.
    he was the best choice for America and lets all wish him luck with the huge task he’s about to take on-fixing the mayhem created in the last 8 years.but otherwise,i think we’re much better off without outside interference and have no desire to become the next iraq or afghanistan.

  65. Zafar says:
    November 11th, 2008 9:57 am

    I agree that the election of Barak Obama is a good think for the world.

    As for Pakistan, what will be good for Pakistan will depend on what we Pakistanis do ourselves.

  66. AZHERUDDIN says:
    November 11th, 2008 10:29 am

    I think the world’s faith in democracy and America has been somewhat restored by the election of Obama. Mine certainly has.

  67. Imran Anjum says:
    November 16th, 2008 3:48 pm

    Barak Obama is a well managed, self-motivated and forward thinking man. And about his connection to Pakistan, well with having a small accidental connections with few Pakistanis does never mean he has a any favourable corner for Pakistan. He himself in 1997 (the era of Musharraf rule at Pakistan) said to destroy Al-Qaida positions in Pakistan with or without permission of Pakistani Govt. One who (anytime) can say this, can also go this way in America’s interest. Truth will never change. Yes we can expect that American interest would change with his new position as a President since he preached to bring a change in side America and even to the American perspective in the rest of world. We know that Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan issues are of great importance representing almost world’s one third population consent. We can hope that this change may favor Muslims and Pakistan both.

  68. S.M.IQBAL says:
    November 17th, 2008 5:33 pm

    Excellency Barrack Hussain Obama, heartiest cogratulation on his becoming President of USA.
    Barrack Obama carries name HUSSAIN the name Hussain carries Hussainiat, mystic of Hussain, in my opinion I am sure the Hussainiat shall emerge in favor of America and American shall get what they cannot get in the past. The partriot loving american Obama with this Hussainiat shall destroy the enemies of america. I have a suggestion that prior taking any action against the enemies Mr. Obama may first check the forces behind the enemies. The cleaning of enemies shall not be fruitful untill root causes are removed and mysterios forces are capped. God bless America.

  69. Al says:
    December 10th, 2008 6:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing this interesting post.

  70. waseem says:
    December 18th, 2008 12:18 pm

    barack obama who become the president of u.s.a by aplying a slogan “Chang we need”
    but according to me obama would b mor strick for pakistan as compare to bush coz at first obama will try to re establish the economy of U.S.A and for that he would cut some of the money given by Americans as aid
    secondly America would take its army out of Iraq and they would put extra army pressure on Afghans and then america will put some extra pressure on pak army to finish talibans
    so as i thought a new tough time is coming very soon

  71. wdailey says:
    December 29th, 2008 12:55 am

    Barrack Obama continues to hide his past behind the court system, he is not a natural born of this nation as defined by constitution, and therefore is not permitted to legally become a President of the United States.

  72. Razzaq says:
    December 29th, 2008 1:28 am

    I am heartened to seethe comment by wdailey. I guess conspiracy theorists and idiots abound everywhere, even in America!

  73. Ozair says:
    January 11th, 2009 7:06 am

    @ Razzaq

    ” … I guess conspiracy theorists and idiots abound everywhere, even in America!”

    I am of the view America, U.S.A that is to say, is the place where they exist in majority, and that too in higher governmental ranks.

  74. ASAD says:
    January 21st, 2009 12:15 am

    Today was an impressive day for America and world democracy. I hope Obama lives up to all the expectations.

  75. Watan Aziz says:
    January 21st, 2009 7:01 am

    I have the audacity of hope, that with the fierce urgency of now, that peoples in all of the South Asia will be able to secure peace and security with justice and equity.

    That this be built upon the simple ideals of empathy, compassion and shared values of common good and service to humanity. That,

  76. goutam says:
    January 26th, 2009 12:35 pm

    Best of Luck “Obama”, We as Indian Have great Hope in U.
    The Terror In Todays world has to be Combat By U & collectivelly by peace lover of the World. Being Most powerful
    leader of the world, We Have Great Expectation From U.
    Please Keep U r word for God sake.
    goutam , Chandigarh India…..

  77. Ghaffar says:
    February 25th, 2009 3:58 am

    I just think its sad he is not muslim.
    I cant believe someone as intelligent as him dont realize and comprehend the depths and thruthfullness of islam!! may allah guide him and show him the right path

  78. farrukh says:
    July 17th, 2009 10:47 pm

    Nicey written

    Btw I just want to say….there is nothing sad about him not being a Muslim, and its so self rightous to think he is so intellingent how is he not a muslim. There are intelligent people in every religion. He is a christian and is an intelligent man. This kind of thinking that only being a muslim is worth any thing has got to change in every day life…BTW i am a muslim but I absolutely do not think every intelligent or good person has to be muslim or they are doomed. When we die and go to answering questions I really doubt the rigid standard of oh you were not muslim go to hell will be the standerd of reward or punishment. I can assure you many muslims will be going to the bad places before any christian or jew.
    Please learn to seperate religion faith and Govt and personality….his faith and judging it is none of anyones business but between him and God religion is not the only way to define a person and while muslims believe our way is right every religion thinks the same and we should leave it to time to decide it for every one

  79. Babar Haq says:
    July 18th, 2009 2:49 am
  80. sherafgan says:
    October 30th, 2009 3:49 am

    pls sir help me my 5 sister i am not earning capesty pls sir help me i am very needy men pls sir help meme this is requst to u pls sir help me my address is that
    sherafgan s/o zafarallah back noori musjed shujabad distt multan pakistan
    id number is that
    pls sir help me

  81. Watan Aziz says:
    December 10th, 2009 5:11 pm

    No soul has duty except to the extent of its ability.

    And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more.

    President Obama, congratulations on the Peace Prize.

  82. Daanish says:
    December 11th, 2009 3:30 am

    Pakistanis should stop looking at Obama to be fair, Americans system and mind set only works for themselves only.i think the way American society is divided since Obama came in and use racial politics,he might end up as the Gorbachev of USA.

  83. Rick says:
    February 2nd, 2010 7:59 am

    Is fasting more of a muslim thing in these days?

  84. Watan Aziz says:
    March 27th, 2010 11:11 pm

    “I have the audacity of hope.”

    A simple idea.

    A world changed.

    I have the audacity of hope that people in Pakistan (and in South Asia) achieve long denied equity and justice, peace and security.

    I have the audacity of hope that no wife is widowed before her dreams come true, that no mother has to shed tears for her son, that no father has to lower his son in a grave, that no son has to lose his father before time.

    I have the audacity of hope that we join hands and defeat those who spread hatred amongst peoples and nations.

    I have the audacity of hope that we sell dreams and not fears. Uplift and not despondency.

    I have the audacity of hope that the misguided and the extremists experience the futility of their hated and witness the swamps of their loathing drained. And experience the oxygen of their detestations disappear.

    I have the audacity of hope that good and wise people come to believe and understand that these are not mutually exclusive events.

    I have the audacity of hope that we make this a better world, a more peaceful world, a more just world, a more equitable world.

    I have the audacity of hope that we solve the problems with love and understanding, with hope and dreams, with equity and justice.

    I have the audacity of hope that while this path is hard and fraught with reversals, the journey of thousand miles is hastened with fierce urgency of now.

    I do have the audacity of hope.

    And of course, yes.

    Yes, we can.




  85. Watan Aziz says:
    July 18th, 2010 9:39 am

    President Obama said that his administration’s new strategy to fight HIV/AIDS in this country will be a critical step to tackling “a tragedy that is preventable.”

    “The question is not whether we know what to do, but whether we will do it,” the president said at a White House reception to honor the work of the HIV/AIDS community.

    “Fighting HIV/AIDS in America and around the world will require more than just fighting the virus. It will require a broader effort to make life more just and equitable for the people who inhabit this Earth,” he said.

    Wise words.

    And wisdom for a broader spectrum of issues for all who can take and make sense out of it.

    Yes, I do have the audacity of hope, with fierce urgency of now.




  86. Watan Aziz says:
    October 25th, 2010 8:00 pm

    Some more meanwhile for tonight,

    Meanwhile, the White House apparently has scrubbed plans for Obama to visit a Sikh temple during his visit to India — because he’d have to wear a turban or other head covering. Some fear that would make him look like a Muslim.

    Muslims don’t wear turbans, Sikhs do. But, apparently, Americans who think Obama is a Muslim also think that Muslims wear turbans.

    Sikhs are not happy about any of it.

    “The Sikh community in India believes President Obama not visiting (the temple) would be a missed opportunity to educate the world community about rights of minorities generally, and specifically, the distinctiveness of the Sikh identity,” one group lamented.

    “The rampant misinformation is in direct contrast to the President’s actions of championing religious tolerance and diversity. For example, President Obama has always been comfortable and respected the customs of other faith traditions, as exhibited by his trip to the Wailing Wall in Israel where he wore a yarmulke,” another group lamented.

    What’s a Jesus-worshipping, yarmulke-wearing, mosque-supporting, Sikh-temple-avoiding President to do in these hyperbolic, hypersensitive times?

    Source: Washington Post dot com

    And so here I say it again,

    No soul has duty except to the extent of its ability.

    And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more.

  87. Call Pakistan says:
    January 2nd, 2011 6:09 pm

    Not sure if he has any soft corner for Pakistan just because he and his mother have lived in Pakistan

  88. October 21st, 2014 12:35 am

    Interesting article.

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