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Lodi Celebrates Pakistan Independence Day
Ras H. Siddiqui San Francisco

(Aug. 2003) To round off our series on Pakistan’s 56th Independence Day here in Northern California, the community that held the smallest gathering needs to be recognized for its maximum community outreach effort. On Sunday, August 17th in Lodi, California, 400 or so Pakistani-Americans turned out in this hot San Joaquin Valley summer day to brave triple digit temperatures at the local Lodi Lake Park with food, music and Pakistani fashions, joined by a sizable number of non-Pakistani neighbors and friends.

  Lodi has a significant percentage of residents of Pakistani origin to begin with, since some of this community has been residing here since before 1947.  It would be safe to guess that up to 7% of the town population is Pakistani-American and if you include the Afghan-Americans that live here, that percentage is higher. It is no wonder that the Lodi Police Department was here recruiting at this gathering (and not just for security purposes), but I’ll get back to that later.

One of the area leaders is retired Engineer Taj Khan, who has already accumulated much political experience by running for office here in this town with open the support of the local Lodi News-Sentinel newspaper (for which he is a regular columnist). He is also a gracious host continuing the tradition of his Frontier origins. Like A. Shakur Khan in neighboring Stockton who was very much present at this gathering, Taj is a well known personality way beyond just our own community. And the way he is writing these days, who knows how soon he will turn up at the national level as a writer here in America?

It was a pleasure to meet our community social activist and event coordinator Robina Asghar and her husband Wasim Asghar. Robina explained in detail the aims and objectives of this gathering beyond celebrating the Independence Day of Pakistan. She showed this reporter the felicitations sent by local, state elected officials on Pakistani Independence Day. She said that they made it a point to invite the local public and the non-Muslim community, so that they could see for themselves that Muslims are a peaceful and productive part of Lodi society. She added that we need to emphasize that Pakistani Americans in general value both their original culture and America, a country  that has done so much for them. She also stressed the need to encourage our younger generation to value their Pakistani heritage as much as we do.

   Pakistani attire was a big hit as was the entertainment segment headlined by TJ Kool and his band along with Carissa and South Asian dances performed by Mechi Yang. In the food department Jalebis were a big hit along with a variety of Biryani. TJ was still entertaining the crowd by the time I left with both Pakistani national songs and his own music that will be released in CD form very soon.

The program itself started off with an official opening ceremony conducted by California State Senator Alan Nakanishi. A number of other local dignitaries were also on hand. Lodi City Manager Dixon Flynn who works with young men from our Pakistani-American community said that “If there is a group of young men that this community can be proud of, it is them.” It is interesting to note here that the City of Lodi and San Joaquin County both fully participated and helped in the execution of this program. Richard Jones, President of the local Boys and Girls club also featured prominently along with several leaders of the area Inter-Faith Community.  

As mentioned earlier the Lodi Police Department was there looking for Pakistani-Americans who may be interested in joining area Law Enforcement. Two of the policemen present have been with the Lodi Police since the early 1990’s and I am happy to note are Pakistani-Americans themselves. I had the opportunity to talk with both Naheem (Nick) Rafiq and Basharat Amin. Nick said that the in local Law Enforcement it helps to be Bi-Lingual with a Pakistani language as the second language. Basharat spoke of positive role models that are needed and encouraged Pakistani-American youth to also pursue alternate career fields including their local police. Nick also mentioned that his Dad is a regular reader of Pakistan Link.

  In conclusion thanks are in order to the Lodi Pakistani community members, especially the organizers of this Independence Day celebration. August 14, 1947 was indeed a historic day that was celebrated in the subcontinent by millions in spite of the pains associated with Partition. It was celebrated in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta as we know, but let us not forget that our people in California (Sacramento, Lodi and Stockton amongst other towns) raised the banner of Pakistan as soon as they heard the news here too. And 56 years later it is a great feeling to note that in Lodi and other parts of California, following America’s 4th of July Independence day, Pakistani-Americans still celebrate August 14th , a celebration through which they continue to preserve their unique heritage.

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