Obama visited Pakistan in 1981

Jul 25, 2013

NEW YORK: Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has cited a 1981 visit to Pakistan while he was a college student in a bid to counter rivals’ accusations that he lacks foreign policy experience.


He spoke of his trip to Pakistan while speaking to supporters at a fund-raiser in San Francisco on Sunday night, according to a dispatch in The New York Times on Thursday. 

Senator Obama, an African-American, also made reference to his ties to relatives in poor villages in Kenya and the years he spent growing up in Indonesia, and says he has real-life experience of foreign countries.

In 1981, Obama visited his mother and sister Maya in Indonesia and then travelled to Pakistan. According to Obama, he was in Karachi for about three weeks and then visited Hyderabad in India.

In Karachi, he stayed with the family of a college friend, Muhammad Hasan Chandoo.

Chandoo is now a self-employed financial consultant, living in Armonk in Westchester County, New York. When contacted, Chandoo said that he would not comment about his relations with his “friend”.

According to The Times, he has donated the maximum, $2,300, to Obama’s primary campaign and an additional $309 for the general elections.

During the speech, Obama said that because of his trip to Pakistan, “I knew what Sunni and Shia was, before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” During his years at Occidental College, Obama also befriended Wahid Hamid, a fellow student who was an immigrant from Pakistan and travelled with Obama there, the Obama campaign said.

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 campaign fundraiser. Hamid was not available for comment as he is travelling abroad, his office said.

With the war in Iraq and extremism among the top issues in the campaign, all three of the presidential contenders have sought to emphasise the value of their very different foreign policy credentials. app