San Francisco Bay Area Celebrates Pakistan’s Independence Day
By Ras H. Siddiqui
The Independence Day of Pakistan was celebrated with a great deal of gusto at several locations in the San Francisco Bay Area starting on Friday, August 12 th and ending on Sunday, August 14 th. This writer was able to attend four of these events for short periods of time, so for the purpose of this report, all their activities are being condensed into one report here. We will keep in mind that the Bay Area covers a wide geography with a high population density and it until recently held just one major event attract thousands celebrating Pakistan’s Independence. Now the vogue seems to be smaller gatherings, even then the numerical advantage remains with the Pakistan Association of San Francisco program where close to 2000 people attended.
On Friday, the celebration weekend kicked off at Mehran Restaurant where over 400 people gathered to celebrate their country of origin, including local elected officials, an Olympic Hockey Gold Medal winning hero and the Consul General of Pakistan Los Angeles,Mr Abdul JabbarMemon. And what a colorful event it turned out to be.)
Pakistan’s field hockey legend Islahuddin Siddiqui was an honored guest here and addressed the audience. He still has a lot of “Dash” and he shared it with us. The Pakistan Consul General in his speech wished everyone well on the happy occasion and also shared words of wisdom that the Pakistani Armed Forces were fighting terrorism not only for Pakistan’s sake but also to keep the entire world safe.
Also in attendance were the Mayors of Fremont and Union City, State Assembly Members Bill Quirk and Kansen Chu, and a host of others. The organizers also took the time to honor many area Pakistani-origin individuals including Dr Agha Saeed for his trailblazing and scholarly contribution to our community not just in this area but far beyond. Since Agha Sahib is impacted by Parkinson’s his sister,MsNeelofer Khan, delivered his speech for him. In his speech Agha Sahib said, “ The only change that I would make to that old saying would be to replace the word ‘soldier’ with the word ‘activist’, yielding the following formulation: ‘Old activists never die, they just fade away.’ I am asking every one of you for your help in ‘fading away.’ ” To respond here it would be prudent to add that we are all fading Agha Sahib. But it is how one lived that counts. Thanks for mentoring many others during your very impressive journey!
On August 13 th the Pakistani American Culture Center (PACC) held a unique event centered on the life and work of the late Abdul SattarEdhi by showing a documentary on him followed by short presentations by two individuals who had met him personally (Hint: they were both from the Sacramento area). This event in Milpitas was the smallest gathering of the celebration weekend activities (only 30 people) but worth a significant mention as it shared Edhi Sahib’s vision, as MrsDurriya Syed so eloquently described. If there was ever a Pakistani person whose life and work needs to be shared with our younger generation, it would be that of Edhi Sahib.
On August 14 th or Pakistan’s Independence Day itself, two flag-raising ceremonies were held in the area, one by the PACC and the other by the American Muslim Voice (AMV) Foundation. This writer attended the latter as the AMV has been the initiator of this flag-raising effort in the Bay Area. This was possibly also the best organized event of the weekend. Thanks are in order to AMV’s SaminaSundas and her team for their meticulous preparations and to Santa Clara County President Board of Supervisors Dave Cortese for sponsoring this celebration.
The American “Stars and Stripes” flag went up first, followed by Pakistan’s Green and White “Crescent Moon and the Star” outside the County of Santa Clara Government Center in San Jose. Thus the County celebrated its ethnic inclusiveness as the participants orwell-wishers next moved inside for snacks and some encouraging speeches by a number of elected officials. But it was Mrs Patty Cortese who really expressed our feelings best and took the event to heart while sharing her thoughts. A cake for Pakistan’s Independence birthday was cut a little later just after our little community kids dazzled us with their performances. As a side note: On Tuesday, August 16th, the Mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo along with Councilmember Ash Kalra (who spoke at this event), and the San Jose City Council were slated to recognize Muslim Appreciation Month as declared on August 1, 2016 by the state assembly of California.
An as mentioned earlier, the biggest event of the weekend was the Pakistan Independence Day Festival at Napredak Hall in San Jose. Actually, the hall itself was not big enough and was used for mainly merchandise sales (Pakistani jewelry and clothes) and the actual gathering was in the lawn outside with food stalls and music. The headline entertainer here was Ms Janice Miller who is famous for being the first “Gori” American vocalist to masterfully sing both the Urdu and Punjabi songs of the Melody Queen Noor Jehan along with those of other Pakistani and Indian singing greats. For a few hours a “Mini-Pakistan” existed here in San Jose during this mela. This Pakistan Association of San Francisco Bay Area annual program remains the “Mother Ship” of all Pakistani Independence Day events in Northern California.
To conclude, in spite of the often negative news coming from Pakistan and about their country of origin in the mainstream Western media, it is good to note that Pakistani- Americans still continue to express pride in, and show their love for, Pakistan. And “God willing” they will continue this celebration of Pakistan’s Independence Day for many years to come. Pakistan Zindabad!
(This report is dedicated to the late Abdul SattarEdhi and his Pakistan)