Spectacular Pakistan Independence Day Celebrations in Los Angeles
By Fatima Khan
Photos by Anwar Khawaja and Digitalstudio360.com

Los Angeles, CA: On September 14 th, history was made in Los Angeles as the Pakistani community came together, for the first time in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, across the world famous Staple Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, to celebrate the 67 th Independence Day of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The event was organized by Pakistan Link/Urdu Link, Safeer-e-Pakistan, and the Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce (PACC). This event was wholeheartedly supported by the Consulate General of Pakistan and all major Pakistani-American community organizations of Southern California. The participants and attendees of this event not only included members of the Pakistani American community but also the local mainstream American community.

This event was a dream come true for the members of the organizing group as they had been planning for several years to hold the Pakistan Independence Day at such an elegant venue. This was the first time that the Pakistan Independence Day Parade and Festival were held at such a venue, right in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, across LA LIVE, Staple Center and Nokia Theater, the well-known landmarks of Southern California. This was made possible by the dedication and the untiring efforts of the Chairman of PACC, Waqar Ali Khan, and the Co-Chairman of PACC, Arif Mansuri and the rest of PACC Board of Directors. It would not be wrong to say that the Independence Day Parade and colorful Celebrations at the elegant venue were the brainchild of Waqar Ali Khan

The same group that organized the Parade and Festival this year (for the first time in Downtown Los Angeles), was also responsible for the first ever Pakistan Independence Day Parade on the West Coast of the United States last year. As in 2012, the Parade was a tremendous hit with the entire community. This year’s Parade included several colorful floats, each with a particular theme that demonstrated Pakistan’s rich cultural heritage, vintage and classic cars, marching bands from various school districts that included almost six hundred students from the local schools and ethnic communities, horse carriages, equestrian groups, stilt walkers and clowns and much more. Participants in the Parade included the Grand Marshals Dr Shoaib and Mrs Zohra Patail; Consul General of Pakistan, Mr. Tasawar Khan; Consul of Pakistan, Dr. Mohammad Khalid Ejaz, many prominent community members and members of several Pakistani organizations, members of Los Angeles Police Dept. (LAPD and Los Angeles Sheriff Department (LASD). The Parade that started from the 8 th Street, marched down Hope Street and ended at the Festival location. Soon after the parade, everyone joined at the festival ground and continued celebration till late hours of the night with a jam-packed audience.

The Festival began with Tilawat-e-Qur'an by well-known Qari, Mr. Tariq Fatani. The young emcees, Hamza Basit and Omar Rehman, then invited young children and several ladies to sing national songs of Pakistan along with Arshad Ali and Shazia, the famous local duo from Los Angeles. This followed an official kick off ceremony of the festival with a grand opening ceremony. Emcee, Fatima Khan, program director of Safeer e Pakistan, famous TV program on GEO Television and the Event Coordinator of this year’s Pakistan Day, invited board members of PACC, along with the Consul General of Pakistan, Mr. Tasawar Khan and his wife Iffat Khan, Deputy Chief of LAPD, Mr. Micheal Downing and members of Los Angeles Police Department and Grand Marshals, Dr Shoaib and Zohra Patail, and all sponsors on the stage. Presentation of Colors was performed by members of LAPD, followed by Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem of Pakistan. Consul General, Mr Tasawar Khan, Deputy Chief of LAPD, Michael Downing, Sheriff of LAPD Mr Lee Baca, Mr. Waqar Ali Khan, Mr. Arif Mansuri, Dr Shoiab Patail and many others spoke on the occasion. Mr Tasawar Khan applauded the organizers and the community, and stressed that the community must stay united and continue to be a vital part of the American society. Sheriff Le Roy De Baca and LAPD Chief Michael Downing also addressed the gathering and unreservedly acknowledged the contribution of the Pakistani community. They also assured its members and offered them the full support and guidance of the law enforcement agencies.

Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Waqar Ali Khan, famous host of the popular TV Program Safeer-e-Pakistan on GEO TV and the Chairman of PACC, said, “We are delighted with the success of this year’s Parade and Festival. Our message to Americans is that Pakistanis are a peaceful and progressive community, and are contributing to the growth and development of the United States in all fields and walks of life.” He also thanked the sponsors and especially the Consul General of Pakistan, Mr Tasawar Khan, and the Consul of Pakistan, Dr Mohammad Khalid Ejaz for their unconditional support and guidance in organizing this event.

Arif Mansuri, the President of Pakistan Link/Urdu Link and the Co-Chairman of PACC, thanked the community for its support and for making the event a tremendous success. He further stated that the Pakistani-Americans contribute significantly to the economy of the United States and Pakistan. He said that if more business avenues and opportunities are created, their increased investments can play an important role in the economic welfare of Pakistan and the US.

After the official kickoff ceremony, the festival entertainment part began which featured Pakistan’s famous TV anchor Sahir Lodhi who flew in for only one day just to attend the event and gave one of the best performances of his life. Other entertainers included legend and icon of Pakistani pop music, Mr Alamgir who despite his poor health, gave a memorable performance. Adeel Burki and young Afzal Haider from New York also gave a scintillating performance in front of the largest LA audience and won the hearts of the crowd with many famous bhangra numbers of Abrar Ul Haque and Jawad Ahmed. A famous dhol player Mohammed Bhuta from New York especially flew in at the invitation of Safeer-e-Pakistan to entertain the teeming crowd. The charged attendees - young and old - danced jubilantly throughout the evening on his dhol beat, almost non-stop for two-and-a-half hours.

Over 80 booths of all types of vendors displayed their products and services. Almost all the major restaurants of the area had set up their stalls at the Festival and were extremely pleased with the turnout of the community. Most of the restaurants ran out of the food before the event was over. Most of the vendors reported that they had not seen such a large crowd at any other Pakistani event before. The owner of a famous Pakistani restaurant located in Lakewood called this a “golden event” and reported that his sale on the memorable day broke all previous records.

Attendees from many parts of California and neighboring States came with their friends and family members and enjoyed the event that went past midnight. The crowd consistently poured in till the late hours of the night and had no desire to leave even after the concert was over. Everyone claimed that this was one of the most organized and fun-filled event that they had ever witnessed and the venue was truly awesome.

The perfect backdrop and ambiance presented a true sense of a festival under the stars. Families with old and young relatives enjoyed the good food, good music, shopping and kids playing happily in the kids’ booth areas till late night. Thousands of attendees left with words of praise and compliments and eagerness to return back next year.

The Pakistan Day Parade and Festival magazine with congratulatory messages from Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Consul General of Pakistan, Tasawr Khan and many other dignitaries, prominent community members and businesses was distributed at the event to thousands of attendees. This magazine was put together by Arif Mansuri and the team of Pakistan Link/Urdu Link and printed by iColor Printing.

It is noteworthy to mention here that this event was put together by the organizers in less than five weeks. This was a true accomplishment for the organizers to put such a mega scale event in a span of few weeks. Hard work, dedication, true patriotism, genuine spirit and love for Pakistan was a real specatacle that everyone witnessed on the eve of September 14 th in Downtown Los Angles. It was estimated that anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people attended the Parade and Festival. A large number of Pakistanis, as well as other ethnic communities, attended this event from far away areas of Los Angles and the West Coast.

The event was largely supported by contributions from individuals, small businesses and Pakistani-run corporations with their generous donations. Major contributors included: Dr. Sohail Masood of Kaba Fusion, Dr. Sana Khan of AIM Radiology, Dr. Mateen Ahmed, Mr. Ashraf Habibullah of CSI Inc., Berkley, Hab Bank, United Central Bank, Dr. Naseem Malik, Mr. Zubair Rao of Advanced Micro System, Mr. Farooq Ghias of Denny’s Franchise, Najeeb Ghauri of Netsol, Grand Marshals Dr. Shoiab Patail and Mrs. Zohra Patail and Consulate General of Pakistan. Other contributors included Dr. Razaq Chaudhry, Dr. Badruddin Kurwa, Omar Haroon, Mr. Abubakar Vakil, Dr. Arif Rizvi, Mr. Shokat Chohan, Anis Bakali, Mr. Ashraf Jakvani, Mr. Saleem Hai, Mr. Idris Malik, Mrs. Samina Shafiq, Dr. Yasmin and Mr. Firoze Qasim, Dr. Tahira Shah, Mohammed Kalam, Shakil Ahmed, COPPA, MONA, MGYW, Islamic Relief, Zanbeel Art and Pakistan Art Council for providing art activities for kids, Wasim Qaisar of Travel plus for all travel arrangement for the artists, Mr. Adil Khan of I color for printing services, Samson Productions for videography service, Digital Impression studio for photography service, Pakistani Student Association of Cal State Fullerton, and members of Agha Khan Foundation for volunteering their time. In addition, special recognition goes to Safeer e Paksitan, Pakistan Link/Urdu Link and Urdu Times for promoting the entire event at no charge and for the generous coverage in their respective media. Geo Television Network was the official media partner and will air the entire event as a special broadcast on Geo in the near future. Also members and Board of Directors of Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce deserve special recognition for contributing their time and effort day and night to make this event a great success. Special thanks and recognition goes to Mr. Waqar Ali Khan for bringing in a large amount of monetary donation, Mr. Arif Mansuri for bringing in booth sale and booking food stalls, overseeing all food permit matters and other donations, Mr. Ali Sajjad for coordinating all the meetings and arranging for permits and street closure with LAPD, Mr. Almas Ahmed for overseeing all the financial matters and collecting payments, Mrs. Fatima Khan for organizing the event and dealing with all event vendors, volunteers, parade participants and other matters, Ms. Saman Mahmood for taking care of Kids area, and Consul General Tasawar Khan and Consul Dr. Khalid Ejaz for their ongoing support and encouragement to continue on with the event and providing assistance whenever needed.

PACC’s mission is to initiate and support programs that promote public awareness through education and celebration of Pakistan. The Festival also promoted business activity, advertising opportunities and promotion of small businesses. The Parade and Festival is an attempt by PACC not only to celebrate this day, but also to bring together communities, officials and law enforcement agencies, and to connect the Pakistani and American people.

All agreed that this year's Pakistan Independence Day celebrations broke all previous records as far as the attendance, quality of entertainment, selection of venue and size of the festival and parade go. It was truly a laudable undertaking manifestly demonstrating the organizers' love for Pakistan and their keenness to provide merriment and bliss for the whole family.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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