70th in Washington
By Mowahid Hussain Shah
Amidst Trump’s newly enunciated hardline tone toward Pakistan, a timely gathering unusual in its scope and focus convened in the greater Washington area to hail Pakistan’s 70th birthday.
The driving force behind the well-choreographed event was Lahore-based industrialist, Javed Elahi. It was facilitated by Haji Afzal, proprietor of the popular Pakistani bistro, Ravi Kabob.
The catalyst behind the event was a sense that a positive message can energize and motivate the Washington-based Pakistani community.
To that end, a tightly-edited movie documentary highlighting the flowering of Muslim nationhood and the horrendous sufferings and sacrifices pursuant to Pakistan’s creation served as a refresher course to the packed audience.
It was a well-blended event, comprising a broad spectrum of the community, and including the young, the old, women, children, and elements of mainstream American society eager to hear how Pakistan was envisioned and what it meant today.
In the audience was Riaz and Sultana Qureshi, originally from Rawalpindi and now Maryland-based, whose son, Abid Qureshi, became the first Muslim to be nominated for a federal judgeship by President Obama. From the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) came former Test cricketer and pioneering community activist, Shahid Mahmood, nephew of Muslim League luminary Nawab Ismail Khan. Shahid’s niece, Huma Abedin, is chief-of-staff to Hillary Clinton.
A survivor from the carnage of Partition was Ghulam Rabbani, 86, who spoke of his being an eye-witness to the killings. Delhi-born Amanullah Khan spoke of the trauma he witnessed as a boy while migrating to Pakistan. Colleen Osgood, honored as teacher of the year by the White House, spoke movingly of how she was inspired by the cheerful spirit of her friend, Tazeen Sayed, who was battling cancer in Lahore where Colleen visited her thrice, thus observing first-hand the family values, warmth, and hospitality that bind Pakistani society.
In an impassioned keynote speech, Javed Elahi, while reflecting on the struggle for freedom spearheaded by the Quaid, exhorted the Pakistani community here to remain alert and engaged, while warning the privileged beneficiaries back home about the perils of ingratitude.
Tasked to conclude, I cited the fact that today there are 57 Muslim countries representing 1.7 billion population, but with negligible global impact. 70 years ago, the Quaid represented a force of 1, yet was able to move mountains despite not having the quintessential backing of Army, America, Capital, and Health.
Reference also was made to freedom struggles around the globe, including Kashmir and Palestine, which were striving to shed the shackles of occupation but were bereft of leadership of the calibre of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Emphasis was also placed on what needs to be done now to confront the living challenges of today, especially so, when Trump has pointed to Pakistan as one “pillar of new US strategy” in South Asia.
Pakistan was well-represented through delectable cuisine served by Haji Afzal of Ravi Kabob, which was savored with gusto by the gathering, and cutting of a cake festooned with an edible rendering of Pakistan’s flag.
The moving spirit of the program, Javed Elahi, urged the participants to sustain continuity in celebrating August 14.