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Torricelli speaks on Pakistan

New York July 1st 2002 -EDISON: Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., defended U.S. policy toward illegal immigrants and urged recent immigrants to help ease Pakistan and India's roiling conflict at a meeting with Pakistani-Americans yesterday.

Members of the approximately 50 person audience, which included Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, praised Torricelli for reaching out to the Muslim community, but many pressed for more action to protect Pakistani immigrants -- including those here illegally -- and asked for the U.S. intervention in Pakistan and India's dispute over Kashmir."None of these people (detained and deported) were in the United States legally.

There's no right to be here illegally," Torricelli said of the U.S. treatment of illegal immigrants, but many members of the audience accused the U.S. government of unfairly singling out Pakistanis."Out of those 40,000 (illegal Pakistani immigrants), none of them were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks or any mass illegal activities, yet they are being deported by the plane load," said

Khalid Luqman, president of the East Brunswick-based Pakistan Center USA.Other immigrant groups had not been subject to the same scrutiny, he said.Azim Mian, a former Iselin resident, said detained Pakistani-Americans had been denied due process.With their nation aiding the U.S. war in Afghanistan,

Pakistanis should be treated favorably, Zahid Ghani said."The U.S. should have announced amnesty for illegal Pakistani immigrants," he said.

Torricelli acknowledged that "defeating the Taliban would have been impossible" without Pakistan's aid, and he pledged to defend Pakistani-Americans from unfair harassment while standing up for the deportation of illegal immigrants.

The meeting, which was scheduled to include Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi, was a chance for members of the Pakistani-American community to express some of their newfound political concerns."(Sept. 11) was a wake-up call. Before 9/11, most of us were not involved in the political arena," said Mahmud Haq, a South Brunswick resident who emigrated from Pakistan.

The discussion also focused on events in Asia, where Pakistan and India's dispute over control of the region of Kashmir has brought up the specter of nuclear war."Nuclear war must never be fought on the subcontinent. The war would be too horrific. The casualties would be in the millions," Torricelli said.

"The United States community and international community must find a solution that is just and fair." But Torricelli did not elaborate on what the answer might be and said it has been "difficult" for the United States to influence the region.

"We need a policy saying these (nuclear) weapons are not going to be used, and I ask you to think about that because the Pakistani-American community has a lot of influence in Pakistan," he said.Mian accused the United States of "having a romance" with India and urged more action in favor of Pakistan, while Munir Akram,

Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, said U.S. involvement is "absolutely" needed to end the conflict."India and Pakistan have never resolved problems bilaterally," said Akram, who sees resolving the Kashmir conflict as the first of three steps to ease tensions.The discussion ended with a call from one member of the crowd to end poverty as a way of fighting terrorism."If I could get any message across, this would be the message," Torricelli said, "the war against terrorism must be a war against poverty.

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