Honoring Quaid-i-Azam in the San Francisco Bay Area
By Ras H. Siddiqui
It was Christmas day all across North America where Santa Clause had just closed his busiest day, with gifts that miraculously found their way to the bottom of millions of decorated trees in homes and into the hands of children and loved ones. Little was anyone aware here that December 25 th is also the birthday of M. A. Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan. But close to 300 people chose to remember that fact as they gathered at a venue in the San Francisco Bay Area City of Newark, California on that day where they decided to celebrate in style with food, videos, speeches, comedy and music. And they also got the opportunity to interact with a last minute surprise guest, a prominent member of Pakistan’s film and television world.
The evening started off with Bihari kabab and naan along with rice pulao-biryani since no Pakistani gathering is complete without rich Mughlai food. A video accompanied the end of dinner titled “The Other Side of Pakistan” put together by the local Pakistani-American Culture Center which consisted of a feedback of an American journalist from Sacramento who had visited Pakistan and reflected on his findings which were far different and positive than the prevailing views here in the media. The video also featured interviews with some local Pakistani-American technology executives who had good things to say about the talent pool and opportunities available in that country. Pakistan’s music and fashion industry was highlighted in the video too along with some of the other very Westernized aspects of the society there.
The formal opening of the event was with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an and its translation. Two young emcees conducted the program, namely, Fatima Tariq Choudhry and Eban Hamdani. It was good to see the young people from the community involved here and in charge of the stage.
The first speaker was Pakistani-American attorney Javed Ellahie, who has been a part of the Pakistan Founders Celebration Committee (PFCC), which started this event several years ago. Javed mentioned that since the Quaid was the least controversial figure for our community, it made things easier to hold this event and to honor him, a man of many accomplishments on his birthday, which falls on the same day as one of the Prophets of Islam, Jesus Christ. He praised both Jinnah and Nelson Mandela and said that such leaders are not created overnight. On Pakistani politics Javed said that in spite of various difficulties the country has faced during the year 2013, it had several achievements to report, including an orderly transfer of government and the change of President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice and the Army Chief. Javed also took the opportunity to congratulate the Pakistan cricket team for their victory over Sri Lanka in their one-day series earlier that morning.
He was followed by Asghar Aboobaker of the Pakistani American Culture Center (PACC) who shared his thoughts on the event. He also provided a brief introduction of the PACC and the ongoing activities that it offers at its Milpitas facility including monthly, quarterly and larger annual events (including the Basant Kite Festival) at other facilities.
Speaking on behalf of the Pakistan Association San Francisco (PASF), the largest and possibly the oldest Pakistani organization in the region, Syed Nusrat the current President of PASF highlighted some of its history. This scribe can attest to the fact that this organization has in the past probably hosted the largest gathering of Pakistani-Americans ever in Northern California at its annual Pakistan Independence Day celebrations usually held during a weekend around August 14 th. Currently besides Independence Day, the PASF is also involved in helping with the Pakistan Consulate (Los Angeles) Visa Camp when it visits the area.
Before the PASF inspired video presentation on the Quaid-i-Azam’s Birth Anniversary Mr. Iftekhar Hai, President of the United Muslims of America (UMA) Interfaith Alliance ,encouraged everyone to join its effort. He also spoke of the need to present a positive image of Pakistan. Following the video, a quiz program on the little known facts about the life of Jinnah Sahib was conducted by Fatima and Eban. Also highlighted was the AMV-inspired Pakistan flag-raising ceremony held on August 14 th at Santa Clara County Headquarters in San Jose sponsored by County Supervisor Dave Cortese during which both the American and Pakistani national anthems were proudly presented.
The last two speakers were writer Ali Hasan Cemendtaur and community senior Waheed Siddiqee (both spoke in Urdu). Ali presented a very philosophical delivery focused on “The Mountains Laugh” during which he encouraged thinking on happenings since Pakistan’s independence including the fall of Dacca and on what constitutes a successful country. Waheed Siddiqee Sahib, who was a teenager at the time of partition, reflected on his memory of seeing the Quaid-i-Azam in Hyderabad (Deccan). He also commented on the fact that the Government of India waited a day or two after Jinnah Sahib’s death before invading and annexing the Muslim-ruled, Hindu-majority independent state of Hyderabad. (Although not mentioned, the fact remains that the state of Kashmir with a Hindu ruler and Muslim majority was somehow not allowed to join Pakistan).
The final segment of the evening comprised of comedy by Faraz, an up and coming area entertainer who is headed for the mainstream. He was followed by the very versatile singer Assad Waince from Kansas who has developed quite a following here in Northern California and was welcomed enthusiastically. Faraz had quite a bouquet of Pakistani- Desi- Muslim-American humor and he is almost as funny in English as his mother can be in Urdu (humor runs in the family).
To close the program Assad Waince sang a number of both patriotic Pakistani and commercial (including Bollywood) songs upon request by the audience members. The surprise guest for the evening mentioned at the beginning of this report was popular Pakistani actor Adnan Siddiqui whose appearance was somehow mysteriously not announced in advance to this writer or others promoting this event.
In closing, one has to appreciate the efforts of all sponsors of this event too numerous to all be named here (e.g. Chandni and Hamrahi). We do have to take the opportunity as a community once a year to honor a man without whom we may not have had a country of origin. A brilliant lawyer, an incorruptible and straightforward man of many accomplishments, M.A. Jinnah or the Quaid-i-Azam as we know him, was an example whose legacy a country was supposed to uphold and follow. Instead, what has become of Pakistan since his early death (on 09/11/1948) is something to ponder over. Jinnah Sahib was a secular minded Muslim modernist, a member of the Shia sect who left his worldly possessions to four educational institutions (Aligarh Muslim University, Islamia College Peshawar, Sindh Madressah of Karachi and an amount to Bombay University (confirmed by Yasser Latif Hamdani, author of Jinnah: Myth and Reality). His vision of Pakistan was that of a tolerant and pluralistic country. Is that the direction it is headed today?
(Dedicated to those who have lost their lives for believing in Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan)