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National

August 4, 2018

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US-Muslim leader sees tough time for Pak-US ties under Imran

ISLAMABAD: US-Pakistan relations are heading towards a difficult phase under Pakistan’s new government as Imran Khan’s demand for relations based on equality will be met with staunch opposition from Trump administration.

These were the views of noted US Muslim leader and philanthropist Frank Islam, who had previously worked with Obama administration on South Asia affairs. Frank shared these views in an email interview with The News.

Frank, a graduate of Aligarh Muslim University who keenly follows Muslim believes Pakistan’s future prime minister Imran Khan wants a mutually beneficial relationship with the US. “It is my understanding, after conferring with experts that Imran Khan wants to push the reset button and start all over in terms of Pakistan-US relations. In past, Khan has been very critical of US involvement in Afghanistan and wants it out of there as quickly as possible,” Franks said adding that Khan does not understand how the US can call Pakistan an ally and then bomb it with drones.

"If my understanding is correct, I believe that Khan’s views and approach would be a non-starter with the Trump administration. I believe the US would want to negotiate a modified approach from a position of strength,” Frank said.

He said any proposed change that reduces US influence without getting something meaningful in return would be met with staunch resistance. “I say this not as an administration spokesperson but as my personal insights as someone who is fairly knowledgeable on this topic,” Frank said.

The US-Muslim leader said he was aware that Pakistan and the US have had an on-again off-again relation dating back to 1947 when the US was one of the first countries in the world to establish diplomatic ties with Pakistan.

President Trump’s tweet at the beginning of the year regarding the aid that the US has “foolishly given” to Pakistan over the past fifteen years followed by a suspension of military aid have made those relations off-again.

He said the relations between the two countries are attenuated and for them to strengthen would require serious diplomacy from both the US and Pakistan. Frank is an expert on Muslim affairs in the United States as he serves on a number of boards and advisory councils including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Art, the JFK Library, American University in Emirates, Marymount University, John Hopkins University, and the Brookings Institution.

While talking about influence of the US-Muslims on the US policies, Franks said there are two Muslim representatives in the US House, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson. “That’s only 2 out of 435. I also know through personal involvement that American Muslims contribute to political campaigns and provide input into policy papers for both parties.”

However, he said there is no major formal coordinated lobbying being done by American Muslims as a unified group. There are groups by country such as the Indian American Muslim Council and the American Muslims for Palestine.

“I have not had direct contact with either of these groups. But, I do not believe them to be very influential. Bottom line is that I think the American Muslim influence is more individual than it is an organised effort and as a result the influence is fragmented and modest at best. I do believe that the influence was much better with the prior administration than this one,” Frank said.

He said the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban” and other statements by the President Trump have definitely made the Muslim world view the US in a different and less positive light. Frank was born in India and moved to US at the age of fifteen to go to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“Growing up in India had an enormous impact on the person I am today. It’s there that I learned lessons from my motherland, my faith, my family, my home city of Azamgarh, and Aligarh Muslim University,” he said.

“Being a Muslim has taught me many things – but the most important one is that the whole purpose of religion is to provide justice and a path to justice for all of us. My faith firmly believes in equality, dignity, compassion, respect, tolerance, justice and peace for other faiths,” he said.

Frank recently donated $2.5 million to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). He said AMU helped him with the basic building blocks to become a successful entrepreneur, to assume serious responsibilities, and most importantly, to become a passionate leader. “Aligarh provided me with an excellent education. AMU shaped my story and determined my destiny. AMU is a precious possession. Its principles have always guided me during times of calm and crisis,” he said.

He said he is engaged in purposeful philanthropy. “I look at the contributions that I make to organisations, groups and individuals that I support not as charity but as investments.” “The priority areas for my wife Debbie and myself through our Frank & Debbie Islam Charitable Foundation are education, arts, world peace, and civic engagement.” Frank said he would help bright Pakistani journalism students in getting scholarships in top US universities.

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