San Francisco Celebrates Pakistan Independence Day
By Ras H. Siddiqui

August 14th is a day that no Pakistani can forget. Millions worldwide who are connected to the “Mother Ship” called Pakistan also celebrate the birth of their land of the green and white flag. Here in the United States and especially in San Francisco, huge gatherings are held every year as the Pakistani-American component of our diaspora has been gathering in August as a part of an annual tradition. This year once again over five thousand people congregated in front of San Francisco’s historic Civic Center to celebrate their cultural heritage as the Stars and Stripes flew along with the Crescent Moon and the Star to celebrate the 59th Independence Day of Pakistan.
People of all ages spanning several generations made up this huge audience as Pakistanis, their Indian and Bangladeshi friends along with a number of curious local onlookers representing San Francisco’s diversity, tasted fine cuisine and took in South Asian entertainment and fashions.
The initial entertainment segment featured the vocal talents of singers Alka Bhatnagar and Anisha Bakshi who dazzled the crowd with various South Asian Urdu and Punjabi hits. But one could not overlook the Fashion Show which once again drew a great response as “Girl Power” was in evidence all the way. Colorful attire, Pakistani colors and great music made this popular segment even more appealing. The participants deserve to be recognized for brightening up the Civic Center Plaza here.
Local Urdu poet Javaid Sayed asked everyone for a moment of silence for Prof. Hassan Jahangir Hamdani who was a part of this annual event over the years. Javaid then proceeded to present some moving verses on Pakistan.

Pictures above: Glimpses of the Pakistan Independence Day celebrations in San Francisco

But the entertainment was not over, because the “Alamgiri” Legend who started Pakistani pop was amongst us. Actually it was the late Ahmed Rushdie who in all probability began the pop phenomenon in Pakistan with his “Koko Korina” in the soundtrack for the film Armaan in the 1960’s. In the late 60’s and early 70’s two singers with their roots from what is now Bangladesh, namely Runa Laila and Alamgir, carried that path forward. And since Runa left and Alamgir ruled Pakistani popular music along with a young man of Iranian origin named Shehki, Pakistani pop music has since never been the same. And who knew that one day Alamgir would be entertaining audiences from both Pakistan and Bangladesh here in the United States?
Alamgir had just come back from Pakistan and appeared too tired and under the weather. But during his performance he gave it his all and took us on a trip down memory lane. His two initial songs “Hum Pakistan Hain” and “Kabhi Pakistan say Guzar Kay Dekho” really set the tempo for the afternoon. And following these “Koko Korina” was revived along with “Shaam say Pehlay Aana” and his super hits “Dekha Na Tha,” “Mujhe Dil Say Na Bhulana,” Albela Raahi,” “Yeh Shaam” and “Mast Qalandar.” A question was asked how Alamgir looked the same as he looked years ago. That is one secret that many of us could benefit from. But in any case his singing talents also remain formidable.

The new Consul General of Pakistan in Los Angeles Mr. Syed Ibne Abbas had also come to San Francisco for this event. He presented his own Independence Day greetings along with those of General Pervez Musharraf. “Unity, Faith and Discipline” were revisited in the message. Abbas Sahib said that this was a wonderful community that made us proud especially in the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquake in Pakistan. “Please keep building bridges, between Pakistan and your adopted homeland,” he said. He also thanked the Pakistan Association of San Francisco for putting this event together. .
Kids born on August 14th were given prizes but the drawing of raffle tickets to Pakistan from Tri City Travel was the main focus which one lucky winner benefited from. Another person was not so lucky earlier because he had a medical emergency at this event that ended his life, a first for this annual gathering. We send our condolences to his family and prayers for the deceased.
Our community elder Chaudhry Khua Bux spoke briefly about the Pakistani spirit and about keeping the faith alive. And speaking of the spirit, the most colorful and festive booth at this event was the one set up by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Pakistan Association of San Francisco President Anwer Siddiqui made the closing speech. He thanked everyone for coming and for making this program successful once again. Candidate Roger Khan, who is running for the Lodi City Council, also introduced himself.
The singing of the national anthem of Pakistan was led by Pakistan Association San Francisco office bearers and members of the newly formed Pak American Gymkhana Club. Consul General Abbas and a few thousand Pakistan-Americans assisted them in singing the Pak Sar Zameen…”.
In closing, beautiful San Francisco once again gave the Pakistani-American community in Northern California a chance to properly celebrate the birth of their homeland. This annual event has kept our community motivated and vibrant for about 15 years now. And this reporter has been covering it over the years as best possible, but it is now time to pass on the writing pen/keyboard to younger and better writers.
(Dear Editor: It has been our annual tradition to dedicate this event and report to Pakistanis who have made a significant difference in our lives. This year I would like to take my leave by recognizing two individuals who have been an inspiration for me and many others. The first is Faiz Ahmed Faiz whose humanistic poetry lives on in many hearts. And the second is my late leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whose controversial leadership and work finally appears to be vindicated today).


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.