Faiz Rehman American political system by design - in theory as well as practice - offers unparalleled access and openness to its citizens regardless of national origin, race, religion and other factors that may retard peoples participation in the system. This is not to say that competing interests in an open society do not use not-so-ethical means to create roadblocks in each others way. Unfortunately, this is still a common occurrence in American society. One such ugly campaign was launched by four members of Congress against the Muslim American community. The group of four, all of them from Dick Cheneys party (yes, he is still around and offering stealth leadership) last week accused, without evidence, a Muslim group of planting spies in the Congress and called on the government to investigate it. The four members, who have reserved a place for themselves in the Hall of Shame, were Representatives Trent Franks (Arizona), Sue Myrick (North Carolina), John Shadegg (Arizona), and Paul Broun (Georgia). All of them Republicans Two members are from Arizona, former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCains state, and two others hail from the southern states, not famous for tolerance and diversity. Undoubtedly, these four members are a tiny minority even in the Grand Old Party, but the fact that these members had the audacity to hold a press conference on Capitol Hill and make serious allegations against Muslim staffers and interns on the Hill, and not a single member of their party has distanced himself/herself from these statements yet, speaks volumes about the challenges Americans still struggle to overcome. The group accused of planting these spies, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), is a prominent civil rights group based in Washington with offices nationwide. These centuries-old tactics to harass and contain a community are not new to America. Almost every community from Catholics to the Jews, and the Irish to Italian and the African American, has experienced way harsher times in the land of the free. Actually, there was a name given to such tactics, McCarthyism, which was coined after a US senators name in the not so distant past. Senator Joseph McCarthy used the unfounded and unsubstantiated scare of Communism as a tool to silence his opponents and condemn them to oblivion, destroying thousands of careers and lives through his Machiavellian tactics. This brings me to underscore the need for relentless participation and activism by the Muslim and Pakistani American communities in the American political process. Recent American history is full of examples from the nations who have benefited handsomely by activism, political participation, and financial success of their respective diasporas in the United States. Chinese Americans have played a well-recognised role in Chinas thrilling rise as a financial giant. Chinese Americans are part of the Obama Administration, including a Cabinet position, have representation in the Congress, have elected mayors and governors, and have taken billions of dollars as investment to their motherland. Israel exercises influence in every sphere of American society due to a very proactive pro-Israel lobby. Indian Americans are the most recent addition to this unique American phenomenon. They have helped, to their credit, in the election of an Indian-origin governor, they are in state legislatures, mayors, councilmen, heads of major US corporations, faculty chairs, professors, think-tank scholars, and what have you. To top it all, the Obama Administration has appointed an unprecedented number of Indian Americans in every department, including State, Justice, and the White House at various levels of bureaucracy and sub-cabinet positions. Young Indian Americans passionately serve as interns and full time staffers in the offices of several members of Congress and have access to opportunities for input in legislation. This is not due to an Indian conspiracy against Pakistan and the Muslims. They have arrived at these milestones with a lot of hard work, unity of purpose, and gargantuan resources provided by an array of successful Indian American businessmen, and, of course, stability and a functioning democracy back home has helped greatly. The good news is that all these opportunities and roadmaps are available to other communities as well, including the Pakistani Americans. There is no reason for the Pakistani Americans to lag behind. Pakistani Americans are already serving, though in a much smaller number and level, in several positions in state legislatures, Congress, and the administration. But it is not enough to give them the clout and a seat on the proverbial table. However, one significant step in this direction was taken here through an event on Capitol Hill. This week the Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee, commonly known as PakPac, hosted over 25 members of Congress and senators at its semi-annual event on the Hill. Not surprisingly, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act featured prominently in the discussions and as expected was vehemently defended by the US legislators. Despite an impressive show put up by the PakPac, the community still lacks seriously in resources, skills, commitment, unity of purpose, and a clear-cut direction. Leaders in both Pakistani and US governments dont get tired of ceremonially trumpeting the value of the community in bridging the gap between the two nations. Both, however, stand guilty of ignoring the strategic significance of the Pakistani American community in matters important in bilateral relations. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is again such an example where the community and its institutions - in whatever shape and form - could have been a great source of input and guidance, but were totally ignored. Understandably, the onus for offering advice and input to the legislature is on the community; still the earth-shattering reaction in Pakistan over the bill and equally strong the sense of surprise in the corridors of power in Washington would have shattered a lot less earth in both capitals had the community been given a chance to speak at some congressional hearings and the congressional staffers had taken some time to seek input from a few community advocacy groups The writer is a Washington-based journalist and head of an advocacy group. Email: faizrehman1@yahoo.com