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Monmouth’s Haq discusses U.S. presidential election with Pakistanis

Barry McNamara
Pakistanis have “lots and lots and lots” of questions about America’s 2016 presidential election, and Monmouth College political science professor Farhat Haq answered many of them recently while visiting her native country.

Haq was asked by the director of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, which she serves as treasurer, to speak at universities about the election. She spoke at four institutions – Government College Lahore; Punjab University Lahore; Qaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad; and BZU in Multan.

“Many more places wanted to schedule a talk, but I only had so much time,” said Haq, who gave the talks in late December and early January.

The theme of Haq’s talks was how to make sense of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

“These were both unpredictable events,” she said. “Political scientists were caught by surprise by both, because polling showed other outcomes. What is it that we were missing?”

Haq said the short answer is that political scientists needed to “pay more attention to passions and emotions, as opposed to ideology and political interests.”

She pointed to a surge in “nationalist-based politics,” with its “fear of outsiders.”

“How do we understand that and make sense of it?” she asked.

Haq said she reassured her audiences, which were as much as 90 percent Muslim, that Pakistanis would still be able to travel to the United States.

“I explained this is still a country of laws, and that there is a difference between campaign rhetoric and reality – that there wouldn’t be a dramatic change,” she said. “It’s going to take many months to see what the change dynamic is.”

There almost surely will be change, and Haq said some young people in Pakistan are eager to see it, despite what Trump has said about Muslims in the past.

“I heard a whole gamut of responses,” she said. “Several young people at all four talks thought that Trump should be given a chance – that maybe things in the United States haven’t been moving in the right direction, and that Trump’s new way of doing things might be better. I had expected to hear a lot more negativity about Trump.”

Part of Haq’s talks focused on “explaining the machinations” of American elections, as Pakistanis said “they heard Hillary Clinton was winning,” and that she received 2.8 million more votes than Trump.

“I explained the Electoral College and how that happened,” Haq said. “Overall, it was very interesting to me to understand what some of their concerns were. Pakistanis were fascinated by the election and many watched live coverage, which was in the middle of the night. They had lots and lots and lots of questions.”

A graduate of the State University of New York at Fredonia, Haq earned her master’s degree in government from Cornell University in 1983 and her Ph.D. in government from Cornell in 1987. In her sixth year on Monmouth’s faculty, she won the prestigious Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award, and she is also a recipient of Monmouth’s Hatch Academic Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching.