Sacramento Pakistani-Americans Celebrate Independence Day
By Ras H. Siddiqui

 

Bashir Chaudhry receives award from Mayor Fargo
Rashid Ahmad, Hon. Dave Jones, Mayor Fargo and Salim Khan

The Pakistani-American Association of Greater Sacramento celebrated the Independence Day of Pakistan (officially on August 14th) at the Elks Lodge in California ’s Capital City, on Saturday, September 2, 2006. This was the second event that this community has successfully celebrated recently as over a thousand Pakistani-Americans along with their Indian, Bangladeshi and local friends from Coalinga in the south, all the way to Reno, Nevada gathered for a fine evening, remembering their heritage and the country that gave them their identity, Pakistan, the land of green and white.

Sacramento Pakistani-American Association members
Pakistani flags fly high in Sacramento

“Pakistanis” have lived in California ’s Central Valley (Lodi, Live Oak, Sacramento, Stockton, and Yuba City) for almost a century as Muslims from Punjab and the North West Frontier of British India settled in this part of the world long before India ’s Partition and the birth of Pakistan 59 years ago. The oldest continually functioning Muslim Mosque in this part of the world is still located on “V” Street right here in Sacramento. The descendents of the original immigrants and later additions are predominantly of Punjabi and Pashtun origin. People from present-day Faisalabad and the area around Attock in Pakistan are in majority here, along with a few others. And not surprisingly, almost everyone in the older generation uses Urdu to communicate across ethnicities, and the younger generation is most comfortable in English. But now let us get back to the event.

Humaira Arshad - Laiba Ali -Janice Miller - Emcee of the event
Event organizers Sohail Shahzad and Nadeem with Shehzad Roy

A recitation from the Holy Qur’an starts all Pakistani programs. The national anthems of both Pakistan and the United States kicked off the evening as several generations of Pakistani-Americans participated in the effort including Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo who included herself during the Star Spangled Banner and was on hand to greet several hundred from our community (the rest as usual, were running a little late). Community senior Salim Khan and local leader Rashid Ahmad also spoke on the occasion. Zubair Qureshi and Naeem Syed were the tag team emcees.

Pakistan Association President Bashir Choudhry said the following words: “I am proud to be part of this great and vibrant community and Pakistani American Association of Greater Sacramento. Last year we celebrated Pakistan Independence Day, Pakistan Day and most of all we were very active in helping our brothers and sisters in Pakistan who got struck by a devastating earthquake. Though I was sad and weeping because so many innocent lives were lost and many more were in misery, but that was a proud moment in our lives also. We all came together to help and showed our true colors. Pakistan American Association was part of many fund raisings and collecting warm clothing. Collectively we raised more than $250K and one container load of clothing.” It was indeed a time that the Pakistani-American community can be proud of because they showed that they cared about people hit by devastation back in the home country.
And it was also a time when the Sacramento mainstream and its Muslim community showed that they were with us in our grief. Bashir Sahib also took the opportunity to announce a $1000 merit scholarship to a 2007 Sacramento area High School graduate.


Glimpses of the Pakistan Independence Day celebrations in Sacramento

State Assembly Member Dave Jones, was also on hand along with Mayor Fargo as a message from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger greeting our community on the 59th Independence Day of Pakistan, was read out to the gathering. The Governor, Mayor and the Assembly Member are popular with our voting community here in Sacramento, and were glad to acknowledge their personal messages here.
But it really was the food, fun and entertainment that brought our community here. Dressed in their finest, our kids and women are the best ambassadors of Pakistan in the United States. And once you add music and the Pakistani Beat to any evening, our young can show their moves on stage and the dance floor. Here we started off with the RAP Sound of Zaki and Zeeshan, as Mayor Fargo selected their first topic for them, which was “Peace” and Assembly member Jones selected “Love.” (And since this writer has been in the United States for over 32 years I would have added “Togetherness” to end the topic triangle, which completes a saying from the late 60’s during what was a different America). Great job on the RAP Zaki and Zeeshan, especially the segment on Pakistani Pride!
Naeem Syed took the opportunity to recognize any young High School Valedictorian and Amna from Coalinga, California stepped forward. He also asked people in the audience a number of questions on Pakistan ’s history and gave away prizes.
The entertainment segment started off with America ’s own and now Pakistan visited and returned Janice Miller from Texas. Janice has made a career out of singing the songs of Madame Noor Jehan and Lata and more recently Shazia Manzoor amongst others. She started off with “Sohni Dharti” and followed with “Sayoni Mera Mahi” along with a number of golden Punjabi songs and ended with “Dil Dil Pakistan .” What added to her performance were the little kids who got up on the stage to dance to her songs.
Sohail Shehzad took the opportunity to introduce Pakistani-American Association Executives and others who had worked hard to make this event possible. Sohail and Nadeem (Khalifa) themselves need to be congratulated for their efforts at bringing top-line Pakistani entertainment to Sacramento and for bringing the community together on one platform. Mehran Restaurant was also recognized for its culinary contribution and more here.
The Pakistani entertainment lineup was outstanding. Laiba Ali (granddaughter of poet Josh Malihabadi) started things off by singing “Sajna” and Noor Jehan’s “Nehr Walay Pul Tay Bula Kay” and a number of high energy Punjabi hits. Her “Agar Tum Mil Jao, Zamana Chor Dain Ge Hum,” was very captivating. The Omar Jackson dance impersonation of Moonwalking Michael was well received, especially when Ajeet, our dhol king joined him with bhangra.
Humaira Arshad has quite a large following in the Sacramento area, and she appeared to know it. She started off with a slow Urdu song but then introduced popular Punjabi numbers to the delight of all present. After she sang “Mein Nahin Boldi” the conservative crowd lost its composure and many young people including the kids got on the stage to dance. Her “Seeti” song was also quite enthusiastically received. Her closing “Mast Qalandar” and encore “Gal Sun” really shook the Elks Lodge.
And then it was the grand finale which brought today’s prince of Pakistani pop music, Shehzad Roy on to the stage. It had been several years since this reporter spoke to him last when he had accompanied Abrar ul Haq at a program in Oakland. Shehzad oozes charm, has a wonderful stage presence, and is an extremely polished individual. And not since Junaid Jamshed’s “Vital Signs” days have we witnessed such a dedicated female following as Shehzad currently has. Shehzad started off with a superb Urdu ballad while playing the guitar. But as soon as he played “Teri Soorat” Sacramento ’s “Girl Power” took over and it turned out to be quite a closing for this program. Shehzad made a short appeal for his Zindagi Trust project, which has established over 40 schools in Pakistan and caters to the needs of poor families. One hopes that his young fans will assist him in this effort in future. Shehzad sang a number of songs but his “Saali” generated a huge response. His closing song about peace moved many in the audience. “Yeh Udasi Kiyoon.., Faslay Kiyoon?” is a metaphor for our times.
In closing it was great to witness once again the revival of Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrations for our American born generation here in California ’s Capital. But there is one more area that needs to be revisited before we conclude here. A reminder is in order to the people that are at the helm of the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Sacramento (PAGS) today. They are benefiting from the hard work of other people who founded PAGS around 13 years ago: Azam Khan, Yusuf and Lubna Agha (who made the logo and banner we still display today) and I came up with the vision for this association. The idea was to simply let our community enjoy an evening (or two) of cultural entertainment per year so that our children will have something to remember about their Pakistani heritage. I am extremely glad that we could be of assistance to the community and that the people who once opposed such programs are now more accepting.
(Dear Editor. With this report I am announcing my retirement from Pakistan Link. I will write a couple of reports between now and the end of this year and in the mean time encourage all new writers, especially young people out there who wish to contribute to the Pakistani-American experience to send their work directly to you via the Pakistan Link website.)

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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