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The Pakistani American who could be behind Bernie Sanders’ controversial Kashmir speech

Faiz Shakir, a Harvard and Georgetown alumnus, has deep ties across the Democratic Party leadership and civil liberties advocacy groups. 

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New Delhi: Over the weekend, Democratic presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders created a stir in India by stating that New Delhi’s actions in Kashmir were “unacceptable” while calling for the United States to support a UN-backed peaceful resolution in the region.

Many believe that his campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, a progressive advocate and Pakistani American, is responsible for authoring Sanders’ Kashmir speech. ThePrint looks at Faiz Shakir, an activist with a stellar CV and deep ties with the Democratic Party.  

‘A progressive hustler’ 

Shakir has been deeply immersed in the world of activism and has managed to cultivate several important connections in the Democratic Party. Born to Pakistani immigrants in the US, Shakir went on to study at Harvard and Georgetown universities.

Over the past decade-and-a-half, he has developed a stellar resume by working with some of the biggest Democratic legislators and top-notch think tanks and civil liberties advocacy groups. 

When Sanders appointed Shakir as his campaign manager in March 2019, news website Daily Beast wrote, “In hiring Shakir, Sanders brings into the fold one of the Democratic Party’s better-travelled operatives — an official with limited campaign experience but with ties to the party’s think tank infrastructure, its Hill operations, and the larger progressive universe.”

Shakir’s ties with the top Democratic Party leadership 

After completing his education at prolific institutions, Shakir began working as a legislative aide to former Florida governor, Bob Graham. He then went to work as a junior staffer in the 2004 John Kerry presidential campaign. 

Following Kerry’s campaign, Shakir joined the liberal think-tank and advocacy group Centre for American Progress (CAP) in 2005. Back then, the CAP was headed by John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff and Hillary Clinton’s controversial campaign manager. Shakir worked at CAP as a policy advisor. 

Later that year, Shakir helped CAP launch the progressive news website ThinkProgress. Shakir was ThinkProgress’ editor-in-chief between 2007 and 2012 and helped turn it into a platform that garnered a lot of acclaim for its reporting on climate change. 

After his stint at CAP and ThinkProgress, Shakir joined prominent Democratic legislator Nancy Pelosi’s team as the “director, new media”. Pelosi is currently the majority leader of the US House of Representatives (lower chamber). 

Following his stint with Pelosi, Shakir went on to work with esteemed Democratic Senator Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader between 2007 and 2015. 

Talking about Shakir’s importance, Reid’s deputy chief of staff said, “Reid did not make a big decision without consulting Faiz. There’s no one he trusted more on how the progressive community would react on something and no one whose advice he took more seriously on pushing him to the left.” 

In 2016 when Shakir joined Sanders’ presidential campaign team, he drew a lot of ire from his former boss Podesta, who was then managing Clinton’s campaign. His displeasure at Shakir’s decision was revealed in the infamous “Podesta email leaks”. 

During this time, as a bitter primary campaign ensued between Clinton and Sanders, according to news website OZY, Shakir was reported to have played the role of an “intermediary among various players”. Though Shakir’s efforts failed, this reflects his deep connections across the Democratic party.


Also read: Should India be offended by BBC, Washington Post, New York Times coverage of Kashmir?


The quintessential Washington activist 

After Sanders failed to win the Democratic primaries, Shakir joined civil rights advocacy group American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as its political director. 

Over the past two years, ACLU has been at the helm of legal and political resistance against President Donald Trump’s policies, especially the “Muslim immigration ban”. ACLU is a major advocacy group and has over 12,00,000 members and more than $100 million at its disposal. 

Following Trump’s immigration ban, ACLU helped raise $24 million and Shakir played a big part in it. ACLU had also filed a lawsuit against Trump’s executive order, which led to a temporary stay on Trump’s immigration ban. 

“Shakir, along with the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, has become the face of the resistance,” notes a report in OZY.  During an interview to The Slant, when Shakir was asked which political issues occupy his mind, he responded by saying, “There’s no shortage of issues — it depends on what day you catch me.”


Also read: Top Democratic challengers who will take on Donald Trump in 2020 and where they stand now


 

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11 COMMENTS

  1. The angry old curmudgeon Sanders will not win the Democratic nomination. Nobody wants a ranting septuagenarian as their president.
    He is definitely superior in intellect to President but so is an average American high school graduate (and that is sad beyond words).

  2. It’s this socialist Jihadi combination all over the world amazes me. Indian left to the center support Paks, likes Arundhathi Roy. Same with American and European. Are they blind to atrocities of fundos in Baluchistan?

  3. Sanders may not win any thing but what he has said is not propaganda rather it is a bitter truth which our Indian friends cannot digest. Remember Sanders is running for presidential nomination and any candidate in such position can’t afford to say something on which he or she could be grilled in upcoming debates.

    • Americans know the bitter truths about Jihadi Terroristan very well. In case you haven’t read, you should read the American comments below Taliban Khan Niazi’s column in NYT.

      Americans know you milked several billion dollars from US, responsible for the deaths of 1000s of American soldiers, hid Osama bin laden near your coward army compound, your Legal provisions of blasphemy laws, you are an Islamosupremacist entity by your Constitution… all in the comments. Forget Indian comments.

      Indian Americans are (1) larger in numbers (2) better educated and more in corporate boards, academics and in bureaucracy in the US. Indian American caucus is bipartisan and no match for Terroristan caucus which is a joke.

      You will be neutralized like mosquitoes. You are welcome to indulge in chest thumping for the time being.

  4. Whoever talks against India has got some links with Mr. A or B.
    Whatever Bernie Sanders said is fact and truth, so why people can not digest it everyone in this world has links . Modi is downplaying Kashmir, Imran is trying to give a hype, Trump is trying to get some political cash out of it and the people of Kashmir are suffering.

    Please support the truth and help people who are in a terrible situation. First is humanity then comes nation and rest.
    Salute to Bernie Sanders for talking truth and giving a strong message to India.

  5. Bernie is akin to Mani Shankar and Digvijay of Congress. His nomination will be impossible. Moreover what the Pakistani was doing was to promote himself and his country and to some extent internationalise the issue.

  6. Shakir is basically a dishonest American whose primary goal is the betterment of Pakistan, even if it is at the expense of the US. He has damaged a Senator’s presidential bid and he has damaged US-India relations. Hope the Democrats send him on to some other job where his love of Pakistan does not affect his judgment.

    • Nothing new here. But I disagree with you the clown Bernie Sanders’ speech can damage India -US relationship which has very strong bipartisan support.

      The odds of Bernie winning the nomination are none. He is so fringe and extreme, many democrats resent him and hold him responsible for Hillary’s defeat. Correctly so.

      Also speaking at Islamic Society and saying this clarifies to the public this is Islamic Jihad. Great way to antagonize the general public if any one is following.

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