Pakistanis in Canada Celebrate Independence Day
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Pakistanis celebrate Independence Day in Canada. Pictures by Syed Azhar Ali Shah

Pakistanis in Greater Toronto celebrated the 59th anniversary of Pakistan with great enthusiasm and fervor. A number of Pakistani and South Asian organizations held events to mark this occasion.
A major event was held on August 14th at the City Hall, Toronto co-sponsored by the Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee and the Consulate General of Pakistan. Thousands of people attended this daylong event in the downtown. It was the first time that the Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee, chaired by Rear Admiral (Retired) Sohail A Khan, had arranged the celebration in the city center. The parade organizers believe that the celebration was the best opportunity to show the Canadians glimpses of Pakistan’s rich heritage.
The number of Pakistanis and Pakistan-origin Canadians is estimated at 300,000 in Greater Toronto which includes Brampton, Durham, Milton, Mississagua, Oakville, Orangeville and Scarbrough which has the highest concentration of Pakistanis.
The independence day event was attended, among others, by Canada’s former Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, Finance Minister of Ontario Greg Sorbara, Ontario opposition leader John Terry, Dr. Shafiq Qadri Member of Ontario Provincial Assembly and Wajid Khan Member of Canadian Parliament.
Since the morning, it was a mela atmosphere at the city hall center where Pakistanis from far and near started gathering. A large number of people were present at the scheduled time of the flag-hoisting ceremony at 1.30 p.m. A Canadian band played the Pakistani national anthem.
The flag hoisting ceremony was followed by a float parade from the University Avenue to the City Hall. The floats included portraits of Quad-i-Azam Mohammad Alli Jinnah, Minar-e-Pakistan, Khyber Pass, Mazar-e-Quad-i-Azam and the player icons of Pakistan that included Jahangir Khan and Imran Khan. The float parade lasted for one hour and was marked occasionally by the slogans of Pakistan Zindabad, Jeeve Pakistan and Canada Zindabad. It also attracted the downtown crowd.
The second part of the program began at around 4pm and included speeches and a colorful musical program. Addressing a large crowd, Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto, Ghalib Iqbal, said that Pakistanis are hard working people whose talent is recognized worldwide. Unfortunately, he added, after 9/11 Pakistan has become the target of negative propaganda and the whole nation is being defamed because of the acts of a few. He regretted that anti-Pakistan feelings have once again surfaced after the London bombings. Pakistan-origin Member of Canadian Parliament, Wajid Khan, in his speech pointed out that after 9/11 Pakistan has cooperated with the West in its fight against terrorism but the West has not warmly reciprocated to this.
Former Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, in her speech said that Canada welcomes people from all parts of the world who enjoy equal rights and opportunities. She said that Pakistanis, like everybody else, can contribute to the progress and development of Canada.
In a special message on this occasion, the Premier of Onatario Province Dalton Macguinty said that the 59th independence day anniversary provides an opportunity for all Ontarians to give full and deserving recognition to many vital contributions of Pakistani Canadians to the social, economic and cultural fabric of the province. “For those Canadians whose roots are in Pakistan, this is an ideal time to reflect with pride on the rich cultural heritage and time-honored traditions that serve to define and distinguish this vibrant, dynamic community.”
A colorful musical program was presented after the speeches. Hadeeqa Kiyani was the star artist of the program. She thrilled the audience with her national songs with slogans of Pakistan Zindabad and Jeeve Pakistan. On public demand she also presented her popular songs. The all-day independence program ended at around 11 pm.
Another major independence day event was arranged by the South Asian Regional Cooperation Council of Canada (SARC) and Asian Canadian Support Center on August 12 in Toronto. It was a joint Indo-Pakistan independence day celebration where speakers highlighted the importance of promoting peace and harmony among Canadians of South Asian origin.
Zubair Choudhry, Chairman of SARC Canada, said that as conflicts between India and Pakistan are resolved the significance of the region will increase as a global trading bloc with Canada and the United States. Normalization of Indo-Pakistan relations will open “a market of 1.4 billion consumers with more than one trillion dollars economy to North American products and services,” he added. Expressing similar views, Syed Ashar Warsi, president of South Asian Support Center, observed that in the light of the increasing economic cooperation in the region, particularly between India and Pakistan, South Asia is poised to move forward in several sectors.
A symposium on Pakistan, organized by the Pakistan Reparation Council International (PRCI), was another major event in Toronto. Addressing the audience, the PRCI Chairman Ehtesham Uddin said that any anniversary of Pakistan’s independence will remain incomplete without highlighting the plight of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh. He said that these Pakistanis, who still raise the flag of Pakistan, are living in very poor conditions with only four kilogram per month wheat ration to each family. Ehtesham Uddin said that Pakistan is currently host to 300,000 Afghan refugees and drawing praise for its hospitality but it is refusing to accept its own people who supported the Pakistani army in 1971.
Screening of a documentary on the plight of 250,000 stranded Pakistanis was the main attraction of the symposium. The documentary, prepared by Obit Helpers, a US non-government organization, shows the appalling conditions of the stranded Pakistanis in refugee camps of Bangladesh. Obit Helpers is involved in several projects to help the stranded Pakistanis. It has appealed for generous donations for the stranded Pakistanis. Obit Helpers can be contacted at 317-361-5096, Fax 317-837-0799.

 


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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