PICO Hosts Annual Daal, Saag & Lassi Luncheon in Arizona
By Salim Jaffer

Pakistan Information & Cultural Organization (PICO) put up a splendid annual program to honor the work of the volunteers and the institutions that PICO works with - both Governmental and civic organizations.

This civil society gathering was studded with individuals for whom working beyond themselves is the way of life. PICO has registered an impressive 13,000 hours of community service since 2000 within greater Phoenix area. Over the years PICO has volunteered at the Phoenix Zoo, Paz de Cristo Community Center, PBD – KAET Channel 8, St. Vincent de Paul Society, City of Chandler, Habitat for Humanity, Parents Anonymous of Arizona, Phoenix Living History Museum, St. Mary’s Food Bank, Masjid Jauharat-ul Islam, Asian Town Hall, Phoenix Art Museum, Labor’s Community Service Agency, City of Glendale, Channel 8 KAET Poll, Boys and Girls club of the East Valley, Grand Canyon State Games, Al-Mahdi Foundation, AAAA Festivals, Intel ISEF, Cultural Cup Food Bank, Salvation Army, Heard Museum, Gibert Global Village Festival, Arizona Special Olympics, City of Mesa, Phoenix Children Association, Hands on America, San Carlos Apache Reservation, Duet, Project C.U.R.E, Garden’s of Tomorrow and the list goes on…..

The theme this year was to enhance the understanding and knowledge about various political parties that are actively engaged in Pakistan. Each table had a name of one of the political parties and the table hosts introduced the parties and their background to the guests at the table.

Each table had one couple or individual from the US government or civil society organization. The host of each table had a responsibility to escort the guest to the luncheon buffet and during the lunch conversation provide some basic information about the political system, the parties, and Pakistan.

PICO calls it a "Daal, Saag & Lassi Luncheon." This is a representative menu from the villages of Pakistan, coupled with yogurt drink and sweet deserts and tea (chai) indeed. Whilst Pakistanis do have an unlimited array of non-vegetarian cuisines this menu however is far from biryani, korma, nihari or anything close to them.

The event was graced by honorable Tasawar Khan, Consul General of Pakistan from Los Angeles; US Representative, 9 th Congressional District, Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema; Honorable Secretary of State Ken Bennett; honorable Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney and Becky Montgomery .

The event started with a recitation from the Qur'an and its English translation. The emcee of the event was the General Secratary of PIC, Zarina S. Jaffer, who invited the president of PICO, Mr Omar Hameed, who welcomed the honorable guests, PICO volunteers and provided a brief report of activities this year. He also introduced the keynote speaker, honorable Tasawar Khan, Consul General of Pakistan.

"When Pakistanis ask me what can we do to help? I say to them, be the best American citizen there is, wherever you reside get engaged in the civil society, let the American people get a first-hand experience of the Pakistani community, its values and aspirations," said CG Tasawar Khan.


He praised the work of PICO by saying that he knew of no other Pakistani organization that is so connected with the civil society and Government of State of Arizona. He praised the professional outlook of the office bearers of PICO. The individuals who head the organization are in their own right very dedicated contributors to the business and companies they work for in Arizona. There were good number of medical professionals, engineers, bankers, academia, business owners who are positive contributors to the state economy. This was the largest gathering of Pakistanis, he said, he has seen in the traditional Pakistani attire (Shalwar-Qameez) outside Pakistan.

" The work of PICO must be emulated by other Pakistani communities living in the US," Tasawar Khan remarked.

A breathtaking video presentation titled "Vibrant Pakistan" was shown following the keynote address, which was a production of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation PTDC. The video covered 2,500 B.C. years history of Pakistan to the present day. This video is available on YouTube for those people who missed it:


Other guests were the honorable Jim Lane, Mayor, City of Scottsdale, and his spouse JoAnne Lane, honorable Jerry Weiers, Mayor City of Glendale and his spouse Sandy Weiers; honorable Linda Kavanagh, Mayor Town of Fountain Hills; honorable John Kavanagh, State Representative District 8, Arizona; honorable Suzanne Klapp, Vice Mayor, City of Scottsdale and her spouse Tim Klapp, honorable Ben Cooper, Vice Mayor, Town of Gilbert; honorable Tony Rivero, Vice Mayor, City of Peoria; Mr. Doug Price, Special Agent In-Charge FBI, Mr. Gerald Richard, Assistant Phoenix Police Chief, Ms. Jane Bjornstad, Community Outreach Specialist FBI; Mr.Kurt Sharp, Assistant to Honorable John Lewis; Mayor, Town of Gilbert and his spouse Mrs. Sarah Sharp, Detective Chris Abril, Phoenix Police Liaison for the Muslim Community; Mr. Eddie Baldenegro, Chandler Chair of the Human Relations Commission, and his spouse Kimberly; Ms. Ruth Giese, Diversity and Neighborhood Outreach Administrator, City of Mesa, and Mr. Tim Oyen, Director Finance to Kyrsten Sinema

This colorful event was not all serious talk about our work and responsibilities as the citizens of United States but also consisted of a heart-throbbing dance performance by Myrka's group that depicted music and dance of Pakistan from traditional Bhangra to hip hop style. A local Pakistani talent Mansoor Johar sang Kenny Rogers’ famous song 'You decorated my life.' The music and dance performance was so moving that the invited guests could not resist showing some moves to the groove. The gala ended with numerous photo opportunities with the government officials.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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