Sacramento Celebrates Pakistan Independence Day
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Pakistani American Association of Sacramento (PAAS) celebrated Pakistan Independence Day with a grand event at the Cesar Chavez Plaza Park in Downtown Sacramento to the delight of people in this region plus attendees as far away as Reno, Nevada and Silicon Valley. So right off the bat, thanks are in order to Bashir Choudry, Aqeel Mustafa, Sabir Ahmad, Javaid Iqbal, Javaid Akhtar, Waqar Zubair, Sohail Shahzad, Imran Chaudhry, and Shahid Saleemi for their efforts along with Shafique Ahmed, Rukhsana Mustafa, Anila Saleemi, Manaza Rashid, Rukhsana Qamar and a number of others who made it all happen. How else could the community have congregated to show their national pride, listen to great music, possibly win a brand new car along with big screen TVs , and a number of other items were it not for this group and the sponsors (those not already mentioned above) including Ch. Siddique, Qamar Ashraf, Anjum Saeed, Dr Amir Jakhar, Ch. Yaqoob, Asif Sattar, Ubaid Khawaja, Rana Rehan Zafar, Mian Asif Khalid and Haji Maqsood? A big “Thank You” to all of them and to the approximately 2000 people who made it to the venue for keeping the spirit of Pakistan alive in California’s Capital City!
The event unofficially began with a kid Popsicle eating contest and a Pakistan trivia quiz during which prizes were generously awarded. The proceedings commenced with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an and its English translation. Emcee for the event Sohail Shahzad began by thanking everyone. “Without you guys, we cannot put this show together,” he remarked. He added that the Grand Prize from the day’s drawing was a brand new car, a 2015 Nissan Versa. Amongst other reasons he said that we are holding this event for our children (so that they can gain familiarity with their heritage). And while waiting for the Chief Guest to arrive, a young man from the community with the aid of a guitar and a number of children on stage sang Dil Dil Pakistan. When the Pakistani Consul General and Chief Guest arrived the proceedings restarted with the playing of the American and Pakistani national anthems.
Mr Bashir Choudry, President of PAAS, in his brief address next expressed his praise for the Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohamad Ali Jinnah and shared some of Allama Iqbal’s Urdu poetry that had inspired him over the years. He also welcomed the Chief Guest in whose presence the community kids stole the afternoon with the song that went viral after the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar: “Bara Dushman Bana Phirta Hai” demonstrating that the dauntless kids of Pakistan will carry on their academic pursuits and it is the terrorists who are now afraid of them. The song, sung spiritedly, was followed by some inspirational Urdu poetry presented by our very own Javaid Akhtar and the raffling of a TV.
Consul General Hamid Asghar Khan in his speech specifically thanked Bashir Sahib and PAAS for making excellent arrangements for the celebration of the Pakistan Independence Day in Sacramento. He said that Pakistan had been going through a difficult time and the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar had affected Pakistanis around the world, because most of us are parents who can sympathize and empathize with the loss of families in Pakistan. He felt it was perhaps the darkest moment we had faced as a nation in recent times but it also became a watershed event in the history of Pakistan. All sections of Pakistani society came together and resolved to tackle the menace of terrorism head-on. He added that the government came up with a plan, which amongst other things, lifted a moratorium on the death penalty and has started hanging terrorists who have been languishing in jails for years. He indicated that 176,000 troops have been deployed to fight this menace and there is an unflinching resolve that this fight will continue till the very last terrorist has been eliminated from Pakistan. Following his speech, local Seraiki leader Ubaid Khawaja presented an Ajrak to Khan.
Next, the entertainment segment was led by none other than Pakistan’s Salsa-Fusion-Pop superstar Faakhir who had returned to Sacramento after many years. Continuing with the theme of the day he dedicated his first song to the kids lost in the APS Peshawar attack: “Kash Hum Juda Na Hote” (Wish we had not parted). He also sang a few of his own hits including Mahi Ve along with Ae Jawan plus a medley tribute to honor Ataullah Esakhelvi (including Kameez Teri Kaali) amongst others. He ended his segment with a vibrant Mast Qalandar.
During a brief intermission, Pakistan’s soccer star Kaleemullah Khan who currently plays for the Sacramento Republic soccer team was recognized on stage and briefly addressed the gathering. And then Punjabi soul and Bhangra took over as Nadeem Abbas Lonewala took to the stage and people of all ages decided to dance the evening away. Lonewala started off with Jugni and then the song which has made him famous - Bismillah Karan. An intermission was held for the raffle-drawing of the brand new car and the lucky winner could not have been happier.
To conclude, thanks are in order to PAAS and all the people who attended. The 60 seconds of silence observed in honor of lives lost in the battle against terrorism during this event was important. This is the real face of Pakistan which the world needs to see. It is unfortunate that 1% of extremists have captured 99% of the media headlines in the West. We need to change that. Long live Pakistan-America friendship and long live a peaceful and progressive Pakistan!