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HDF Holds Gala Fundraising Event in San Francisco
Report By Ras H. Siddiqui

15th March 2003- The Human Development Foundation (HDF) of North America held a fundraising dinner and entertainment evening at the ritzy Regency Theatre in San Francisco on Saturday, March 1, 2003, to the delight of close to 500 of the “Who’s Who” of the Pakistani-American community from Northern California.  This Black Tie event which represented our community at its finest in the realm of fashion, taste and camaraderie, was a joy to participate in especially because its goal was to provide much needed help for some of the very poor in Pakistan. As the main organizer Isha Abdullah put it, this effort was about bringing “mass change”. And if by chance the cause of bringing change was not enough for some, the headlining entertainment by the very versatile and now legendary singer Tahira Sayed was a certainly another strong co-attraction.

  After a sumptuous dinner provided by a major event sponsor (Mehran Restaurant located in Newark), the evening got off to a fine start as the emcee Tallat Sadiq asked Dr. Mubasher Rana to come to the stage. Dr. Rana has been one of the main supporters of the HDF in Northern California for quite a while, ever since the maiden fundraiser for this group was held in Sacramento a few years ago, one in which some people from the Bay Area including Dr. Rana participated. Dr. Rana took very little time here to introduce the keynote speaker, former Congressman and Stanford law professor Tom Campbell who has been a friend of our community for quite a while. Tom is currently the Dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. His unsuccessful bid to become a US Senator in the year 2000 was supported widely by the Pakistani-American community so he is no stranger to us.

  Tom Campbell congratulated everyone on holding this event and went briefly into the purpose and creation of the HDF North America at the time of the 50th Independence Day of Pakistan. He joked that his own birthday almost coincided with Pakistan’s Independence Day, while referring to how close he was to us. “The importance of a foundation such as yours is impossible to overstate,” he said. He stressed the importance of private giving in the realm of aid for development in poor countries. He went at length into the issue of US foreign aid and how per capita Israel gets $273 and Pakistan just 11 (eleven) cents. He said that it was difficult to accept whether our foreign aid is always compassionate.

 On the topic of civil liberties, he asked our community to stay vigilant and that this was the time to test our constitutional protections. He was very critical of the secret evidence usage and spoke of the protections under the First Amendment to speak out, especially for American Muslims. He said that the Muslims have made valuable contributions to America and California via their promotion of family values and by being productive members of the society here. He added that he was honored to be here and to be invited to speak at this event.

   Mrs. Isha Abdullah a pivotal organizer and group leader of the event spoke next of the daunting task ahead of us in the area of human development in Pakistan. She presented some grim statistics of the numbers below the poverty line, illiteracy and lack of health care there. She emphasized the holistic approach that the HDF has taken to alleviate some of the problems in a number of localities in Pakistan. She said that the requirements were for seed funding of projects to bring not just short term but sustainable change in the lives of some of the very poor in that country.

Dr. M. Khalid Riaz, one of the pillars of the HDF spoke next. Dr. Riaz elaborated on the statistics already provided by Mrs. Abdullah and explained what the foundation was all about. Due to some logistical problems, his slide show could not be accomplished but Dr. Riaz was still able to (quite eloquently) relay the required information for the benefit of the audience. He used a story from Sufi literature to make a comparative analogy of a stream’s journey to an ocean with conditions in Pakistan. He presented additional grim statistical data on literacy there, where less than 50% of primary school age kids go to school and high percentage of those drop out soon after. He spoke of a “poverty complex” in the country and that at least 10 years of work is required in a community to bring some sustainable change. He said that the HDF has learned from the work of other organizations such as the Agha Khan Foundation, The Orangi Town Project and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

He said that about 2500 micro enterprises had been established and that 150 small non-formal schools are being run via the HDF. He asked interested people in the audience to visit these sites themselves if they wished. He added that the emergence of extremism was the combined result of poverty and oppression. He invited people to visit the website for more information. He said that the HDF had been able to collect close to a million dollars last year. A very moving video was shown just before the fundraising began but with very limited sound. “It is not an easy task to ask for money,” said Dr. Riaz, but that is exactly what was needed. He said that the Foundation kept open books and there should be no reluctance on our part as to the use of these funds. A vigorous appeal was made and quite a few pledges and checks were received. Unfortunately, at the time of this report, we do not have a final amount of funds raised.  

  The entertainment segment was opened by the musical group SAWAAZ, consisting of Noor Lodhi, Maneshwar Judge and Asim Khan (and where was Amin?). SAWAAZ did an impressive job by itself and in assisting the main event, that being Tahira Sayed. Ms. Sayed has quite a fan base here in Northern California, and people came from long distances to see her here. She is as charming and graceful as ever and there is no question as to her singing abilities. She started with “Dekha Na Jayay” and in a journey through various Urdu, Punjabi and Dogri language Geets and Ghazals, she took many of us all down memory lane. “Yeh Mehfil jo Aaj Saji Hai” and “Lo Phir Basant Aayee” got much attention and many diehards were there till the very end for “Abhi to main Jawaan Hoon”. This was a fine performance from one of the best singers of Pakistan. And for  that words of praise are in order for this very educated lady who has a good command of English, Urdu and Punjabi and makes it a point to come down from the stage after her shows to meet her fans. Many people made the 3 hour trip (the Bay Bridge traffic was especially atrocious this evening) from Sacramento and beyond to see her perform. And they were not disappointed.     

   In closing, thanks are in order to all the organizers Dr. Isha Abdullah, Dr. Roohina Janjua, Neelam Malik, Dr. Farah Rana and Dr. Mubasher Rana along with the sponsors and volunteers who planned and executed this program to benefit some of the many poor of Pakistan. It is not possible to name all of them here in this report but we know who you are.  It is always great to see the Pakistani-American community holding such events and this reporter is personally grateful for being able write about them. This becomes especially important when you find just about every active community person in this part of California at one gathering. Mashallah, many are still in a position to be generous in this difficult economy. We all appear to be ageing gracefully, but as far as our concern for our country of origin, age is not yet a factor. It is within this line of thinking that “Abhi to Main Jawaan Hoon” becomes a important song in a journey of self-discovery.

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