Embassy Hoists Flag
but Holds No Celebrations
By Khalid Hasan
Washington, DC: The
60th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence was marked
here by Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani raising the national
flag at the embassy in the presence of mission officials,
while no member of the community was invited.
For the last many years, under instructions from the government,
the independence day is not celebrated by Pakistani embassies,
that honor being reserved for Pakistan Day on March 23.
However, as far as expatriate Pakistanis and Pakistanis
at home are concerned, the big day for them is August 14
and not March 23. Ambassador Durrani told Daily Times that
it has been decreed by the government for the past many
years that August 14 will be limited to a simple flag-hoisting
event at missions. He recalled that when he served in Washington
as military attaché in the late 1970s and early 1980s,
even then that had been the practice and the protocol.
The embassy does not do an “open house” for
the community on this or other occasions but invites community
leaders and other leading figures for special events. National
day receptions generally host local government and public
representatives and other diplomats. Durrani said that as
this is the 60th anniversary of Pakistan’s birth,
“we have a series of events to celebrate the historic
year”. A Sadequain exhibition now being held is the
first such and a number of other events are planned in coming
However, there are some in the Pakistani community who are
disappointed at this lack of enthusiasm on the 60th independence
anniversary. Syeda Quratulain Masood, a Pakistani student
currently doing an internship in Washington, is one of them.
She writes in a letter made available to Daily Times, “It
is a common practice of the embassies here that on their
national days they send an open invitation to the communities
to meet for their national day and assert their sense of
belonging to their motherland. I was waiting for the 14th
of August excitedly. I thought I would go to the embassy
and see my green and white flag being hoisted. I got a rude
awakening the other day. First of all, the website said
nothing about the national day function at the embassy.
So I called up the embassy and was eventually told that
while there was a function, the community was not invited.
I was told to come to a painting exhibition instead. Firstly,
a painting exhibition is not the same as a flag hoisting
ceremony, especially if you are in a foreign land. Secondly,
the neighboring country’s embassy is not only hosting
a ceremony but the embassy website also contains maps and
directions to the place and for the ease of their people,
the community and “friends of the country” can
get together at two places and the embassy is shuttling
them from there. Being a Pakistani, I not only have to go
through a ‘random’ check at the airport every
time I travel but I also feel unwelcome in my own embassy.
A national day celebration consolidates our identity of
being Pakistanis.” (Courtesy Daily Times)