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Pakistani Independence Day in San Francisco
Report by
Ras H. Siddiqui
Sacramento, California USA

August 2001 -  The largest annual gathering of Pakistanis in Northern California (if not in all of the West Coast of the United States) took place on Saturday, August 18, 2001 at the world famous Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  The Pakistan Association of San Francisco Bay Area hosted this event for our benefit as once again thousands of people of Pakistani origin and their friends traveled from a radius of over 200 miles to this international landmark, in a City which some have described as one of the most beautiful in the world. And if San Francisco is beautiful, the addition of the green and white colors of Pakistan and the colors of the traditional attire of Pakistani women and children added to enhance it. And for those of us who made the 3 to 4 hour drive to this park (due to a 1 hour plus traffic gridlock that had to be overcome at the Bay Bridge), the rendition of Poet Allama Iqbal’s “Lab Pay Aati Hai Dua” (A Prayer comes to the Lips) by a couple of youngsters and the events that followed made it all worthwhile.
 
While parking the car, which was in itself a major feat at the park and took another half a hour, I heard but could not witness the poetry and a call for unity by San Francisco’s very own Urdu phenomenon Javed Syed. A strong request for the solution of the Kashmir Dispute (between India and Pakistan) was also made during this time. A Kashmiri-Pakistani-American presides over the Pakistan Association of San Francisco this year so the theme of Kashmir remained prominent.
As this reporter finally made it to the stage, the very eloquent Poetess Noshi Jilani was busy enthralling the audience with her Urdu verses. In addition Syed Jahangir Hamdani’s made a moving speech and reminded everyone there that “Pakistan is here to stay”, and that it was achieved by the giving of lots of sacrifices. Hamdani Sahib also briefly went into the backdrop of Pakistan’s historically friendly relationship with the United States.
Emcee for the event Tashie Zaheer with assistance from Annie Akhtar  and others filled in the voids but there were few such gaps as the musical group Asian Soundz opened up with a trip down memory lane with “Ko Ko Korina” a famous Pakistani song from the 1960’s. Singer Shamsher Ali followed with “Sohni Dharti” a National song that became very popular in Pakistan in the 1970’s and still retains quite a following.
He was followed by our very own community member Irfan who  continues to improve his craft. Irfan and his group have helped many Pakistani events in this area. The night before he had been assisting with the Abrar (Billo Dey Ghar fame) show in Newark.

 Ms Janice Miller who was the main performer of the day really shook the park. And when Janice started “Dil Dil Pakistan” a tune originated by The Vital Signs, she had everyone’s attention. How this young lady (now from) Texas does justice to Pakistani   songs with such accuracy remains a mystery, especially when she does not speak the language or have any roots in our culture. Janice followed by “Dupatta Mera Mal Mal Ka” and really brought the park down (if that is possible) with the Punjabi song “Aa Ja Sohniay” (A Shazia Manzoor original), and the Late Madam Noor Jahan’s “Sayonee Mera Mahi” for those of us “old folks”.
The main guests for the day had arrived so there was a break in the music. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Pakistan’s new Consul General in Los Angeles Raana Rahim were led to the stage along with Dr. Agha Saeed of the American Muslim Alliance. Mayor Brown has been our guest before and is now a friend of our community. His introduction by Dr. Agha Saeed has to be one of the most powerful pieces of oratory that this reporter has witnessed in a long time. Dr. Saeed observed how Mayor Brown  rose up from a humble working class background to become Mayor of San Francisco and second most powerful man in California for 15 years. From this “rags to riches” theme and in the history of the African American Civil Rights struggle for equality in this country “we have nothing but respect for what this man has done and for what he has achieved in this country” said Dr. Saeed. Quoting the Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam M. A. Jinnah who said in 1937 that “ Democracy is a system in which a numerical minority can become a political majority”, and how Mayor Brown exemplified it.
“Muslims today are at the cutting edge of the civil rights movement in the United States”, added Dr. Saeed. In the context of Pakistan a “Sister City” relationship between the City of Lahore in Pakistan and San Francisco proposal was also presented.
Mayor Brown congratulated everyone present on this celebration of Pakistan’s Independence Day. Elaborating on Dr. Saeed’s earlier comments he said that “rights should be extended to ALL people in this Nation, whether they be Muslims or non-Muslims” He also said that we need to make an effort “to rid this nation of hate crimes”.

“I thank very much for coming from all over Northern California to San Francisco  to celebrate this occasion and I look forward to always share with you the level of power that you have helped me acquire as Mayor of this city. Thank you and god bless."

  Dr. Saeed next introduced the new Pakistan Consul General in Los Angeles Raana Rahim . He said that South Asia has actually led the whole world in electing women to positions of power. Here we have one more eloquent voice on behalf of Pakistan.”

  Raana Rahib first spoke in Urdu and congratulated everyone on Pakistan’s Independence Day and expressed her happiness for being here in San Francisco. She continued in English and congratulated all the people who made this event possible.

“In my opinion, you are the actual ambassadors of Pakistan in the United States. It is a matter of great pride for us in Pakistan to know that all of you are doing so well.”  She added that “we have designated this year as “The Year of the Quaid”, and we will have major celebrations for the Father of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on the 25th of December.” She mentioned the Task Force formed under the leadership of Dr. Nasim Ashraf which includes a Peace Corps of young Pakistanis who will spend time in Pakistan to educate and help people there. She also delivered a message from President Musharraf  on the occasion of Pakistan’s Independence Day. 

Janice Miller concluded the show with as much fanfare as she started and was given a warm farewell. On the way out this reporter met a lot of people who were very happy that they came. Thanks to the Pakistan Association of the San Francisco Bay Area officials from all of us for holding this very successful event.  You bring honor to  Pakistan. Inshallah, I hope to see you there again next year.  But I cannot leave without the traditional conclusion.

 In the past few years this reporter has asked Editors to dedicate this event to people who make us proud to be Pakistani. This year our natural choice is the Quaid-e-Azam,

the founder of Pakistan. But I believe that even he would not mind if we dedicate this event to two individuals who certainly have done their share to help our poor and destitute. So this year’s event and this report is dedicated to Maulana Sattar Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi.

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