Green & White Day in Sacramento with Ambassador Jilani
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani was recently on a tour of Northern California during which he took the opportunity to visit Sacramento on Saturday, April 23, 2016. He is possibly the first Pakistani Ambassador to make an appearance in California’s capital city in over two decades.
Jilani assumed his responsibilities as Ambassador in Washington on January 2, 2014. Prior to this appointment he served as Foreign Secretary of Pakistan from March 2012 to December 2013. He is a career diplomat and has also served as Ambassador of Pakistan to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union (2009-2012) and as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canberra, Australia (2007-2009).
Mr Jilani, who is a relative of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (PPP), was appointed foreign secretary in March 2012 and has also served in various non-ambassadorial capacities outside Pakistan, including a stint in New Delhi (1999 to 2003).
In Sacramento, Ambassador Jilani was an honored guest for late afternoon tea at “Pakistan House” where he took part in its official Pakistani inaugural ceremony. And a bit later he took the opportunity to meet and greet some key members of the local Pakistani-American community at a hall in nearby Elk Grove where close to 200 people attended in true Pakistani style with snacks and dinner menu to match (from Spice of Life Restaurant). As a matter of fact, it was a real “Green and White Day” for all of us in the community of the Greater Sacramento area, with participants from as far away as Butte County, a celebration of March 23 rd Pakistan Day albeit a month later. The Pakistani community of this area is possibly the oldest settled group of Pakistanis in the US, with ancestors that go as far back as the early 1900’s.
Rana Akram was the emcee for the dinner event, coordinated by the NAMC group with Nasir Choudry and Shahid Hussain in the lead. The formalities were started with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an by Imam Aamir Hussain from Woodland followed, with a translation. Imam Aamir also surprised us with a wonderful Naat. And soon after that, Professor Emeritus of California State University Chico Dr Nasim A. Jawed presented a scholarly take on the birth of the idea of Pakistan and the significance of the Pakistan Resolution of 1940. Dr Nasim also touched upon the direction that the vision of Pakistan has taken since independence. Our community needs to hear more from academics like Dr Nasim who remains a very important resource in his retired life.
Ambassador Jilani made his presence felt at just about every table in the hall by personally walking to each group and greeting them (instead of the other way around). He also presented awards to key members of the Pakistani-American community including lifetime achievement recognitions to Bashir Choudry, Major Hussain, Rashid Ahmad, the late Aslam Khan (his grandson accepted) and a local journalist, plus a handful of other individuals, Chaudry Amin, Shahid Hussain and the Ranas who dominated the evening. Hafeezur Rahman and Rana Tariq Khan in turn presented a shield to the honored Ambassador.
The Ambassador in his short delivery commended all the Ranas present. He said that the invitation of the hard-working and proud Pakistani-American community of the area brought him to Sacramento and that he should have come here a lot earlier. He added that the people in Pakistan are proud of this community and its achievements, mainly because it is contributing a great deal to the United States and also because it always steps up for Pakistan whenever a tragedy strikes there, like floods and earthquakes. He congratulated everyone present for making this fine evening dedicated to Pakistan successful. The Ambassador spoke of the trials and tribulations of the Pakistani people since 1940 and said that today’s Pakistan is going through a pleasantly prosperous change. He added that adversaries are currently looking at Pakistan differently because of its strong defensive capabilities. He also said that Pakistanis are making good economic progress with a strong growth rate which is expected to increase to 5% or greater by next year. He added that Pakistan is also addressing the issue of extremism and the Pakistan Army has sacrificed many lives in the battle against terrorism.
He also highlighted the good relations between Pakistan and the United States. Ambassador Jilani closed his speech by praising our music and food and said that he was looking forward to sharing both with everyone present.
An official from the City of Elk Grove also presented a memento to the honorable Ambassador to welcome him here for the first time. A short Q/A session, dinner and music closed the evening.