Pakistan Spirit Manifestly Evident at APPNA Summer Meeting
By Dr. Mujahid Ghazi
Pictures above: Glimpses of the APPNA Summer Meeting
A spirit of joy and celebration was manifestly in the air when 3000 attendees met at the 32 nd Annual Summer Meeting of Physicians of Pakistani descent. They came from all over North America and a few from as far as Pakistan. Marriott San Francisco seemed to be completely taken over by the physicians and their families. While mom and dads were attending CME meetings the kids were having their own fun, attending SAYA meetings and going out for picnics and sight seeing. Market Street and its shops were packed with APPNA shoppers, mostly women. Pakistani and Indian Restaurants in the vicinity served record number of customers. The CME sessions were very beneficial and well designed. Alumni of Pakistani medical colleges took advantage of the meeting and held their annual meetings.
SMCAANA (Sindh Medical College Alumni) invited Ethan Casey to be the keynote speaker. He spoke of the experience of his visits to Pakistan. He also talked about his book ‘Alive and well in Pakistan’. He said it is easy for the mainstream Americans to understand about the good side of Pakistan and Pakistanis when it is told by him than the Pakistanis themselves as it might be taken as biased opinion. He also told the audience that he is working on his second book. Dr. Sohail Siddiqi, president of SMCAANA, highlighted the achievements of the alumni and its members. Dr. Ahsan Zafar moderated the meeting. Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Dr. Farooq Sattar was also present at this meeting.
Two political forums were also organized at this meeting.
The first of these was held on July 3 rd, 2009 and was conducted by the United Social Forum, a joint presentation of the Dow, SMC, Rawalpindi and Quaid-i-Azam Medical Alumni. Dr. Jamil Farooqui who happens to be the son of the late Mehmood Azam Farooqui chaired the organizing committee. The topic was very catchy: “ Swat, A Paradise Lost or Heaven Gained”. The panelists included Dr. Babar Awan (PPPP), Mr. Makhdoom Javed Hashmi (PML-N), Dr. Farooq Sattar (MQM), Haji M Adeel (ANP), Dr. Iqbal Khalil (JI), Sajjad Burki (PTI), Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy and Mr. Shuja Nawaz. The discussion was predictable. It looked like Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk. Dr. Farooq Sattar, Haji Adeel and Dr. Babar Awan complementing one another, defending the Government’s policy of military intervention in Swat, giving all kinds of reasoning which one has heard hundreds of times in the talk shows on Geo and ARY. Similarly, Dr. Iqbal Khalil, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and Sajjad Burki criticized the government’s policy, blaming it to be an operative of the US government. They condemned drone attacks on innocent civilians and highlighted the plight of the internally displaced Pakistanis. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy condemned religious extremism and said that the seeds of religious extremism were sown long time ago and what we are seeing now is the result of the failure of the past governments to curb this fanaticism when it was the right time to do so.
The second political forum was held on July 4 th, 2009 and was organized by American Pakistan Physician for Justice and Democracy. Dr. Omar Naseeb was one of the planners of this meeting. The topic was “ Pakistan in Search of Identity - Constitutional Democracy or Taliban Shariah.” Speaking on the occasion, Dr Babur Awan, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, assured the audience that the government is firmly committed to protecting fundamental rights of the people and would not allow the Taliban to impose their Shariah in the country. He said the people of Pakistan want democracy to succeed in the country. . He assured the APPNA members of full government support and offered to establish a liaison committee to coordinate various initiatives between APPNA and the government of Pakistan and provide fast-track support/assistance to all APPNA-related projects in Pakistan. He also assured full government protection for the investment made in Pakistan and urged upon all Pakistani-American professionals, doctors, and businessmen to support the people and government at this critical juncture. He also presented a plaque to Athar Minallah advocate.
Other members of the panel were Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, MNA (PML-N); Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel, ANP; Mr Sajjad Burki, TIP; Dr Iqbal Khalil Jamat-e- Islami; Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, Professor, Quaid-i-Azam University and Shuja Nawaz, Director of Washington-based Atlantic Council and author of Cross Swords.
There were also continuous seminars throughout the meeting organized by Legal Aid Committee of Dr. Afia Siddiqi. Dr. Ashraf Toor was seen actively organizing these seminars and inviting people to attend them.
The grand finale was the APPNA Keynote Banquet and Entertainment. After the hot discussion in the political forum the banquet hall was jampacked with people waiting to listen to the keynote speaker Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi and to enjoy the entertainment following the dinner. Maleeha Lodhi said that she is feeling delighted to attend the meeting as a common citizen of Pakistan and not as a government official. She mentioned the victory of Pakistani cricket team and said that the nation has to come out of depression and pessimism and do what the Pakistan cricket team has done. She said there is no reason for us to be in the blues. We are a nation of intelligent and hard working people and we have to keep our spirits high and make a winning combination to take Pakistan to the next level. Dr. Zia Moiz moderated the banquet. He reminded me of the good old college days when he was one of the best English orators of Karachi.
The entertainment was phenomenal. Taranum Naz, Alamgir, Tahira Syed, Najam Shiraz and his partner Salma, all performed well. Tariq Mirza was also good as a stand up comedian but Omar Shareef was in his best form. There was a little mishap when one of the organizors asked him to leave the stage in 5 minutes. There was some hot exchange but soon it subsided and he continued to entertain the crowd. Mr. Vakil Ansari must be commended for bringing Omar Shareef to the meeting.
APPNA has a tradition of organizing Urdu Mushaira at its annual meets. It happened this year too. Himayat Ali Shaer, Manzar Bhopali and Zakia Ghazal were the prominent poets. The mushaira started late and due to the long list of APPNA’s own shoras the guest poets didn’t get much time before the mushaira drew to an end. It was also poorly attended.
Lastly a word about the general body meeting and the elections. One attendee told this scribe that the GB meeting was a mess. No decision could be reached and the environment was so hostile that the organizers had to abort the meeting prematurely without reaching a consensus. When I asked the President Dr. Syed A Samad about the outcome of the elections he said that due to the objection of certain candidates the result had been postponed and after following the constitutional process it would be announced.
The Bazaar at this meeting attracted clothing designers, jewelers, NGOs and other business entities not only from the US and Canada but also from Pakistan. It was well frequented by the attendees.
Except for a few mishaps the meeting was well organized and well attended.
Dr. Samad, Dr. Tariq Cheema and the organizing committee must be commended for doing a great job.