‘The Revolution Comes to the Bay Area’
By Ras H. Siddiqui
San Jose, CA: With the theme of “It’s Time For Pakistan To Change: The Revolution Comes To The Bay Area” the San Francisco Chapter of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party held a unique event at the Silver Creek Country Club in San Jose, California on Saturday, March 3rd. Approximately 200 people gathered at this venue to show their support for the now famous “Third Option” being openly discussed in Pakistani politics as former cricket great Imran Khan’s long quest to make a political impact there is finally bearing fruit. What this movement, which its leader has recently described as a “Tsunami” does bring to the table is a new hope for change in a country where neighboring wars, terrorism, corruption and poverty offer many challenges.
The evening turned out to be quite an eventful one. Chief Guest and seasoned politician, the Baaghi-Rebel himself, one who had been affiliated with many political parties and movements in the past and has recently joined PTI, Mr. Javed Hashmi represented PTI and Imran Khan here for the first time. Brig. Rahat Bhatti was also invited and last but not least Salman Ahmad of the Sufi Rock band Junoon along with his wife Samina were on hand to add their star appeal to the evening. Other local guests and community leaders, some of whom drove from as far away as Sacramento, were also in attendance.
The formalities started with the customary religious invocation followed by a reflection on the current and past efforts of the local PTI chapter by a couple of its officials. An appeal was made for more memberships. Readers are instructed to contact via phone: 408.396.7374 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to join in this effort. According to a party statement of “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) USA. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is committed to the establishment of a welfare state in Pakistan where everyone can have political freedom, economic opportunity and social justice. It is a movement for democracy, independent institutions, sovereignty and humanity. PTI SF Bay Area's primary objective is to help mobilize Pakistani expatriates in the San Francisco Bay Area for the cause of justice by creating awareness of the movement and help in fund-raising activities for PTI.”
From here onwards this report continues with the disclaimer that since almost all of the evening’s proceedings were in the Urdu (Pakistan’s national language) for which literal translations are not always possible, no quotes will be used here.
Imran Khan addressed the gathering not live through Skype as originally planned but through a pre-recorded video. In it he highlighted three main points: 1) Corrupt people cannot fight corruption. 2) Tax evasion is a major issue hurting Pakistan. A large percentage of the current and very rich members of Pakistan’s Parliament pay no taxes at all. 3) An emphasis is needed on making merit based promotions in the country. Imran Khan asked all Pakistanis either in Pakistan or overseas to join his movement for change and justice.
Chief Guest Javed Hashmi next came on to the stage. On a side note he once hid from the authorities during his student days at a relative’s house in Gulberg, Lahore so there was some very old Punjab University connection to be made there. In the 2008 general elections he won not one but three out of four seats that he ran for under the PML (Nawaz) ticket. His only loss was to his new partner in PTI Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his home city of Multan. It is no wonder that PTI has received a big boost by both of them recently joining Imran Khan. His upset win over Sheikh Rasheed in Rawalpindi was certainly a turning point in 2008.
Javed Hashmi’s talk this evening was quite elaborate and only some segments are highlighted here. Slowed down by a stroke since 2010 he can still project his ideas with clarity and passion. He highlighted the longstanding leadership problem in Pakistan as one of dictators, feudal lords and corrupt bureaucrats. He said that Imran Khan offered an alternative and that the PTI movement included the active participation of the young, women and overseas Pakistanis. He said that the masses in the country are today supporting PTI. He added that the rich in Pakistan continue to get richer (and send their money overseas) while the increasing numbers of the poor continue to suffer.
Hashmi said that the PTI was trying to gather together some good people and that overseas Pakistanis should join them and emulate the successful contribution of Chinese and Indian Americans who have made immense contributions to their home countries. He said that we can make Pakistan both beautiful and strong. He added that PTI was trying to bring a revolution in the country and that Inshallah it will improve Pakistan. Pakistan Zindabad. During a long Q/A session after his speech he answered some very tough questions from the audience till dinner was served.
After some good food from Shalimar Restaurant, entertainment was very much in the picture. Imran Khan’s political rallies have now included some form of musical entertainment. A local band named “Rock The Ricksha” entertained the gathering first by playing songs of social uplift and patriotism by Strings and the Vital Signs. All three of the young people of the band did a fine job but the young lady on drums whose name I unfortunately did not note was awesome!
Last but not least Rock Musician par excel lance Salman Ahmad performed some of his many hits. Salman is actually much more than a musician. An accomplished writer-author, UN Goodwill Ambassador, social entrepreneur, he has also acted and been a central figure in documentary movies plus he is a music teacher as well. His passion (Junoon) has remained Rock Music (he grew up in New York) and he has been additionally inspired by Pakistani-Indian Sufi Qawwali (a kind of Urdu and Punjabi Gospel). He often participates in events promoting religious and international harmony and has continued to promote and incubate charitable causes like the Salman & Samina Global Wellness Initiative (SSGWI) which is currently assisting flood victims in Pakistan. Salman is also a very old friend of Imran Khan and performed recently at a PTI rally of close to 300,000 people in Karachi on December 25, 2011.
The audience here at the event was much smaller but Salman and Samina’s enthusiasm was not diminished. We heard several of his hit songs (and a song or two from Samina) plus his motivational comments on his wish to see PTI succeed while not failing to mention that he was an artist first, one who has to remain above party politics.
In closing this PTI effort in San Jose was a first for the area in quite some time. Pakistani-Americans have not been overly enthusiastic about Pakistani party politics for some very good reasons. Imran Khan’s appearances at charity programs are a much bigger attraction for us. His political events have not been particularly as successful, but if things continue to slide in Pakistan, that could change fast.