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Ambassador Qazi Visits Sacramento California
By Ras H. Siddiqui

(Feb. 2004)  The Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi took time out during his US west coast visit to California’s Capital City, Sacramento on January 12-13, 2004. And in his itinerary which included a meeting with our new Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a session with local area (media) opinion builders on January 13th , he made it a point (on Monday, January 12th ) to meet local Asian, Iranian and Arab-American & Muslim dignitaries along with members our Pakistani-American community. Only some of the events of January 12th are covered here in this report.

  Upon his arrival at the dignitaries meet a number of officials from city, county and state

Government met Ambassador and Mrs. Qazi (accompanied by Consul General Jadmani).

Leaders of the Asian Group CAPITAL (Jerry Chong) along with the Arab-American Chamber of Commerce (Ayad Al Qazzaz), the Iranian Community including host Mo Mohanna and the Rahimians, along with Sacramento City Councilmen, and representatives from the Mayor’s office, from Jan Scully’s office, The Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento News and Review (SNR) newspapers plus local TV Channel 3 (Edie Lambert) were present.  

  Five official forms of welcome were ready for the Ambassador and one very unusual one for Pakistan. First the Ambassador was welcomed by the President of Sacramento Valley Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Mr. Rashid Ahmad. The next item was a gift bag from the Sacramento Mayor’s Office presented by City Council Member Jimmy Yee who applauded the great relationship that our (American) government has with Pakistan. Barbara O. Schneeman, the Associate Vice Provost from the University of California at Davis followed with her welcome and a short speech during which she highlighted the agreements that U.C. Davis already has with the Agha Khan University and the University of Karachi. The Iranian-American community presented a token of appreciation to the Ambassador as Mo Mohanna said, ‘We are really blessed to have you here with us” (The Embassy of Pakistan currently runs an Iranian Section that fills in the diplomatic gap between the US and Iran while the two countries stilldo not have direct relations).

  The fifth welcome was somewhat unusual and a pleasant surprise. Surely an example that the media in the United States could emulate (if it wanted to) Karen Buchanan from the Butte County Republican Party Central Committee traveled some distance with her friend Rabina Khan of the American Muslim Congress to present a plaque to the President of Pakistan in appreciation of the support provided by him to the United States when it immediately needed it after the horrors of 9/11/2001. The plaque read “Presented to the Honorable President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan H.E. General Pervez Musharraf by the California Republican Party in Butte County in appreciation for your outstanding leadership in the War against Terrorism and your continuing dedication to the principles of Democracy.” Ambassador Qazi accepted the plaque on behalf of General Musharraf which Karen wanted to present to him directly in June 2003 but could not.

  The last presentation was made by Kelley Patterson from the office of State Senator Deborah Ortiz. Kelley welcomed the Ambassador and appropriately plugged the diversity

(Pakistanis are very much included in it) which has made it a model for our nation as a whole.

  Ambassador Qazi ended that segment with a speech in which he thanked Rashid Ahmad, He expressed his pleasure at being in Sacramento and said that he was grateful for the honors and hospitality shown here. To the Iranian-American community he said that “we are privileged to represent your interests in Washington in your time of difficulty.” The ambassador hoped that the relations between Iran and the United States would normalize and while expressing the deepest sympathy and condolences on behalf of the people of Pakistan on the tragic loss of life during the horrible earthquake in Bam, Iran (latest reports state 41,000 deaths), he added that relief efforts of which the United States was a major part, could help the relationship between Tehran and Washington.

  On US-Pakistan relations he said that there was a great friendship between us for over half a century and that it would continue into the future. He said that the foundations had been strengthened last June when President Musharraf visited Camp David. “We in Pakistan have made progress against extremism,” he added. He described Pakistanis in general as religious moderates and said that “the best path is the middle path.” He mentioned the trade relationship that Pakistan has with the State of California from which it is currently importing cotton and said that he hoped to discuss expanding this business relationship into other areas (including IT) with Governor  Schwarzenegger on the following day. He ended his speech by saying that “you’ve given us a traditional American welcome and we that you for it.”

  The second segment of the evening was the Ambassador’s outreach effort with the area Pakistani community. Again Mr. Rashid Ahmad made the introduction and thanked the Ambassador for visiting us. Maulana Adil Khan started the session with the traditional recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Mr. Iftikhar Ahmad, the new President of the local Muslim Mosque Association (of the Downtown “V’ Street “Pakistani Mosque”) started off the welcomes to the Ambassador and his wife, followed by Abdul Hameed Bath of the Yuba City Islamic Center. M. Akhtar Shah, President of the Pakistan Association of San Francisco added his sentiments and invited the honored guests to association events.   Mr. Bashir Choudhry of the Sacramento Valley Muslim Community followed with his welcome remarks.

   Ambassador Qazi addressed the community members in English and returned welcomes with his own words off thanks. He said that we were also all ambassadors here, from our country of origin, Pakistan, to our country of adoption, the United States. He commended many here for their services and said that “Pakistanis should take a leaf out of your book.” He commented on the efforts by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington to help the community along with those of the Consulate in Los Angeles headed by Consul General Jadmani. He also announced the proposed setup of future Pakistan Consulates in Chicago and Houston (New York already has one) to help the growing numbers of Pakistan-origin people in this country. He said that the Embassy website has been upgraded and that communication links have been expanded via email.

  He expressed his happiness over the fact that the Pakistani-American Community is  getting involved in local politics here and hoped that it would stay very active and not keep itself occupied with Pakistani politics. He called for unity amongst people of Pakistani origin in the US and hoped that they would stay away from building multiple  organizations in the same cities which end up planning several events for the same national holiday in the same cities and end up dividing the community (ring a bell Sacramento?).

   Ambassador Qazi commented on the recent historic developments in Pakistan’s relationship with India. He added that Pakistan supports the rights of the Kashmiris.

On this recent thaw with India he mentioned that the US has played a very constructive role behind the scenes. He also mentioned the improving relationship with Afghanistan.

He presented figures to indicate that Pakistan’s economic indicators were looking up. “We want American’s to invest in Pakistan,” he said.

  An interesting Q/A session followed the Ambassador’s speech. The community was both appreciative and critical but offered many useful suggestions. But in the end it exhibited what can only be described in the Ambassador’s own words. He had said earlier and I quote; “Whatever the color of your Passports, the color of your heart will always be (the Pakistani) green.”

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