The room was full of election energy as speaker after speaker spoke of the importance of this midterm election and why it is imperative for every voter to cast the ballot.
“Stakes are high and you must cast your vote, irrespective of your party affiliation,” was the simple message that Saeed Hassan and his long list of guests representing different communities and political shades had for Pakistani and South Asian voters living on Long Island.
Saeed Hassan, president of Pakistani American Community Excellence (PACE), a community organization that is not just bridging the gap between the community and the mainstream but also preparing it for mainstream politics, organized the pre-election community pre-election discussion and strategy meetup. Its aim was to exhort the registered voters to use their constitutional rights today (on election day). Traditionally, the Pakistani American voters’ activism has been patchy. In some states, they come out in droves, and in others, they generally prefer to stay home on election day
Hassan and his long-time friend and PACE associate Syed Adnan Bukhari, partnered with other community organizations including APPAC, Pakistani American Community Organization of Long Island (PACOLI), APAG, PASNY, SASBA, PATH, PACCONY, AMONY, APPNA, Adult Daycare PASOW, OPGF, and PANY to organize the event at Tandoor of Long Island in Hicksville on November 7, hours before polling opened across the country.
Thanks to the two activists’ outreach, a large number of members of Pakistani American and other South Asian communities showed up. Also present were several election candidates, including Amanda Field, the Democratic candidate for New York State Assembly from District 15; Steven Rhoads, the Republican candidate for New York State Senate from District 5; Amir Sultan the Pakistani-American Republican candidate for New York State Assembly District 10; and Raja Hassan Ahmad, one of the seven trustees of Brentwood School District. Brentwood School District is one of the largest o Long Island with an annual budget of over $500 million.
The long line of speakers included among others, Qamar Basheer, Wakil Ansari, Shaikh Hamyun, Shahid Mian Ji, Azra Dar, Sarah Siddiqui, Aslam Beg, Ashraf Azmi, Imran Saeed, Chaudhary Tanveer, Ahsan Chughtai, Hassan Raja, Syed Waseem, Joy Thomas, Marc Soto, Rafi Fazli, Erum Hanif, Tahira Din.
Pakistani Americans are considered the fastest-growing immigrant group on Long Island and are positioning themselves to play a more assertive role in close races and districts with low turnouts. APPAC, PACE, PACOLI and many other organizations are trying to energize the Pakistani American voter to be visible, counted, and gain the political power which is within its reach in many districts.
“We are getting there because of our activism,” Bukhari said in his remarks while highlighting the Pakistani community’s integration into the political mainstream. Bukhari stressed that Pakistani Americans should not stay on the fence and their voice will only be heard if they become part of the political process and US elections are the best way of entering it.
Almost every speaker urged the participants and the community at large to make sure they go out and vote. “Go out in mass and vote. As Pakistani Americans, our leaders must know who we are and … that we matter,” said Sarah Siddiqui. Shahid Mian Ji went a step further, saying: “Make sure we go out and vote and pick the right person,.. because too many people come to us, take pictures (with us) and then disappear.” He added that the time had come that Pakistani community members run for office and get representation where they deserve to be. “This is the time we should be on the table to make the promise to our community. The same promise that the others are doing to us,” he added.
In their brief remarks, all the candidates lauded PACE and its partner organizations for putting together such a vibrant event that energized many registered voters in the room. Even if half of those in attendance cast their vote and convince their friends to do the same, we can really build the much-needed momentum for election day,” Hassan told Pakistan Week. They promised to work for further political empowerment of the Pakistani American community and to work for its representation in government and political offices.
Senior journalist Jehangir Khattak, in his remarks, said immigrants and especially Pakistani voters should keep three considerations in mind while making their voting decision. These include national issues such as inflation, crime, women’s reproductive rights, etc; local issues such as high property taxes, local economy, education, health, etc. He said immigrant voters should pay more attention to a candidate’s record and position on issues rather than just ideology. He said participation in the political process is key to the community’s political empowerment. He ended his remarks with a famous quote of Plato, saying: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
The event ended with a sumptuous dinner and socialization.