Representing Pakistani-Americans on Capitol Hill: Executive Director Ali Chaudhry
Ali Chaudhry works to mobilize Pakistani-Americans and foster constructive dialogue about Pakistan on Capitol Hill. As Executive Director of the Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C), 25-year-old Chaudhry, leads an organization that strives to build stronger ties with U.S. Congress and get Pakistani-Americans more politically active. Since its founding in May 2004, PAL-C has helped create the bipartisan Congressional Pakistan Caucus, which today has 67 members of Congress in it. The caucus aims to improve bilateral ties between the United States and Pakistan, and to promote dialogue between Pakistani-Americans and their representatives in Congress. In 2005 and 2006, PAL-C worked with the caucus to draw Congress’s attention to the October 8, 2005, earthquake in Pakistan. It also mobilized Pakistani-Americans to petition their members of Congress for earthquake relief aid. As the 2008 elections approach, PAL-C is striving to get its members involved with voter registration and informational drives. To learn more about Ali and the work of PAL-C, check out this week’s Nonprofit Spotlight.
Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C)
Born in Lahore, Pakistan
Ohio Wesleyan University
Bachelor of Arts
Majors: Political Science, Psychology
Pakistani American Leadership Center
Executive Director, November
November 2004-November 2006
Pakistani American Leadership Center
August 2004-October 2004
Center for Defense Information
June 2004-August 2004
Pakistani, South Asian
About the non-profit
The Pakistani American Leadership Center was formed in May 2004 to fill an important void in the Pakistani American community – representation of Pakistani Americans and Pakistan on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
PAL-C thus was initiated with a vision of building ties with the US Congress through educating and mobilizing the Pakistani-American community at large. Successful and reputable Pakistani-Americans took a lead in making this vision a reality.
As PAL-C matured, it soon became the primary resource for all Pakistani-American political issues through its information library, its relationship with the Pakistan Caucus and Congress at large, and lastly in its dual role as a conduit for education and awareness amongst Pakistani Americans and the larger American community
Today, PAL-C has one of the largest memberships in the Pakistani American community, with five National Directors and eight Regional Directors. PAL-C mobilizes the community to take a more proactive role in the American political arena and encourages our members to be educated, informed, and politically active. Moreover, PAL-C strives to introduce a constructive dialogue on Pakistan and the challenges faced by its people, and to bring about a positive change in the homeland through working directly with the people of Pakistan.
Through its youth organization, Rising Leaders, PAL-C also facilitates opportunities for Pakistani American youth to intern/work on the Hill, to train for political office, and to be volunteer for social work.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Maintain the PAL-C office, supervise office staff, communicate with PAL-C National Directors and Regional Directors, conduct meetings with PAL-C members as well as with offices on Capitol Hill, possibly prepare for upcoming events and/or attend events, plan and execute community campaigns, update the website with latest news and articles, etc.
Most notable milestones
The Congressional Pakistan Caucus was initiated with PAL-C’s help, and in the summer of 2004 PAL-C was responsible for facilitating 60 Members of Congress to join the Caucus. This is a feat achieved by few minorities in the history of the United States.
The Caucus exists for two primary purposes: first, to increase minority participation of Pakistani-Americans in their respective districts and second, to strengthen bilateral ties between Pakistan and the United States. Currently the membership of the Caucus stands at 67, under the able leadership of Honorable Co-Chairs Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee and Mr. Dan Burton.
From 2005-2006, PAL-C worked closely with the Caucus to bring attention on the recent earthquake tragedy in Pakistan and will continue to press the issue for a long time to come. PAL-C mobilized the Pakistani-American community to petition Members of Congress for greater support to Pakistan after the October 8th earthquake. Senate Resolution 356 and House Resolution 561 for post-Earthquake relief were introduced after a successful “Day on the Hill” in which PAL-C brought together Pakistani American organizations and leaders to petition Congress for assistance to Pakistan.
What’s the niche?
PAL-C is the only community organization with a professional office and staff in Washington, D.C. The organization itself is a political advocacy group and focuses on individuals that possess a keen desire to be politically informed and involved. With our unique network with members of Congress and public officials both in Pakistan and in the United States, we are in a position to impact bilateral policy on both sides by educating policymakers on issues of concern. We are also the only organization to regularly arrange community meetings with government officials, as well as intimate meetings between policymakers from Pakistan and USA.
What’s in store for the future?
For PAL-C, the future holds great promise. We are rapidly expanding our office staff and building on our existing relationships to truly become a nation-wide phenomenon. As we move closer to 2008, PAL-C will focus on the elections and get its members involved in voter registration, fundraising, party campaigns, national conventions, and information drives.
For me, I am looking forward to going to law school and pursuing a degree in international law.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Work hard, be honest, and let your results speak for themselves.
Guiding principle in life
“Love whatever you do.” I always follow my passions and find myself happier when involved in projects I care deeply about.
Goal yet to be achieved
Earn a degree in International Law.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
My mother has always been supportive of my interests. She takes great interest in PAL-C and provides useful advice frequently.
My Uncle (Father’s Older Brother / Taya). Taya Abu, as I fondly call him, has been the inspiration for my success and I have always relied on his support and wisdom. Coming from a family of businessmen, he and I stand apart as we both possess a passion for politics and philanthropy. His unflinching support has led me to become the man I am today.
What motivated you to get started?
My passion for Pakistan. I care deeply about Pakistanis and possess a keen desire to help bring about a positive change for the nation of 150 million. I had worked previously in different avenues where I felt restricted in my capacity to contribute towards human development in Pakistan, but then I got involved with PAL-C where I feel right at home.
Like best about what you do?
Bringing together people for a common cause! It’s exhilarating to see change take place in front of your eyes and know that you were somehow responsible for it.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What was your first job?
In college, I was a help desk technician for information systems. I got to answer phone calls from people who were annoyed at not having any internet. I would tell them that we were having “load shedding” problems. They wouldn’t get it.
Biggest pastime outside of work
People have time outside of work?
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Bill Gates. Not only is he an innovator and a revolutionary businessman, but most importantly the philanthropic work he is doing in underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia is remarkable. He is a role model and I would love to pick his brain in a private setting.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I was born in Lahore, Pakistan and I absolutely love the place.
- I am a huge cricket fan….as in the sport, not the insect. That would be weird.
- I’d like to learn more languages – preferably Mandarin and Farsi.
Three greatest passions
Who would you like to be contacted by?
PAL-C works to increase recognition of Pakistan’s strategic, economic and cultural significance with Members of Congress, US media and academics, to build relationships with other reputable and recognized organizations or institutions such as think tanks, non-profits and universities, and to educate the American community on issues of common interest.
In pursuit of such goals, I would like to build friendships with other non-profits and community organizations, as well as young leaders and political activists. I personally welcome any exchange with people interested in Pakistan affairs and/or political activism, so that I can learn from their experiences and build long-lasting friendships with like-minded people.
Interview by Saba Nasser
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez