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 months.
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)



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