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March 16, 2000
It wasn't just the halal goat curry
J M Menezes
The halal goat curry fund-raiser on February 24 surely yielded Hillary Clinton $ 50,000 for her Senate bid, but it had nothing to do with her husband's decision to stop over in Pakistan after spending four days in India, many Washington insiders believe. They were reacting to Maureen Dodd's observations in her column in The New York Times.
"If you are really looking for who might have changed Clinton's mind and prodded him to spend at least a few hours in Pakistan," said a Congressional aide, "you must look at the likes of Safi Qureshey, one of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. And don't forget that President Clinton's former adviser, Lanny Davis, who is now, among other things, is a lobbyist for Pakistan. And do not underestimate Congressman Edolphus Towns, an ordained Baptist minister and a rising star among New York Democrats. His election district in Brooklyn has hundreds of Muslim families, mostly from Pakistan. Towns also has close ties with pro-Khalistani Sikhs."
"The decision was made by the President in consultation with his foreign policy team based on our interest in the subcontinent, our interest in that part of the world, without regard to anyone's politics, including the First Lady's," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart has said.
Qureshey is one of the most influential South Asians in America. Cofounder, former CEO and chairman of AST Research, Inc, a personal computer manufacturer, he is currently involved with several start-up technology companies as a board member and seed investor. Through his involvement in The Indus Entrepreneurs and the newly founded CEO Emeritus Group, he is active in helping southern California entrepreneurs.
He is also a member of President Clinton's Export Council. The Council advises the President on ways to increase the export of US products and services globally.
"Doesn't it make sense that someone like Qureshey has more influence on the President than a $ 50,000 fund-raiser?" asked a senior analyst in Washington. "The Pakistan lobby has been working 25 hours a day, eight days a week and five weeks a month for a long time to ensure at least a face-saving, whistle-stop visit to Pakistan."
The analyst said the Pakistanis have been saying for a long time that if Clinton did not make a solid gesture, democracy may never return there. And if he avoided Pakistan the militants and fundamentalists there would become stronger.
"He fell for the emotional blackmail," the analyst added.
Others pointed out that Clinton would like to have some peace-making advantage in Pakistan. "He is convinced that, following his success in bringing together the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, and the PLO and Jewish leaders," said an Indian American leader, "he will play a similar role in the Indian subcontinent. But he forgets that a mechanism for peace talks has always existed between New Delhi and Islamabad."
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