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Sacramento Area Pakistanis Hold Peace Dinner
Ras A. Siddiqui

Feb - 2002 . The cry was “One fifth of humanity is at risk”. And on that note Friday, January 25, 2002 ended in Sacramento, California with a wonderful dinner to highlight the issue of “Peace in Asia”, the culmination of a day-long effort by the area Pakistani community to promote harmony and show concern about the possibility of war between India and Pakistan. Assisted by individuals from other parts of Northern California the guests included Arab, Iranian, Indian and Asian Americans. Many local dignitaries were in attendance along with Pakistani Consul General Mrs. Raana Rahim and Commercial Counsellor Mr. Tariq Bajwa from Los Angeles. Representatives from the local Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and the Hindu faith also graced the occasion with their presence.
The three segment peace activities of the day started off with Consul General Mrs. Rahim being a guest between 2 and 3 pm on The Tom Sullivan Show KFBK 1530 AM , one of the most popular radio programs in the Sacramento area. And not being one to report only the positive side of Pakistan’s Diplomatic Representatives in the United States, I must say that the Pakistan Consul did a great job at presenting Pakistan as a progressive, moderate and dynamic Muslim country.
The second segment of the January 25th activities in Sacramento involved the holding of a Peace Rally at the steps of the California State Capitol building between 3 and 5 PM. This activity has already received a great deal of local press and was covered by me in a separate report last week. Pakistani Community activist Mr. Talat Sattar coordinated that effort with the help of a small group of local individuals.
 And last but not least, the Peace Dinner event and the focus of this report. The program  started off on a great note, which was dinner. Catered by Mehran Restaurant from the Bay Area, the Pakistani food as always, was a big hit across all ethnic and religious lines. And before one moves on here, a word of thanks are in order to Mo Mohanna our Iranian-American friend for providing us his best facilities, the Grand Ballroom on J Street Downtown Sacramento for this gathering.
A recitation from the Holy Quran by Imam Qasmi of the Downtown “V” Street Mosque started the formal proceedings. Next Rashid Ahmad, whose contribution to Peace Day in Sacramento were instrumental, proceeded to introduce quite a number of the local dignitaries present. Space constraints will not allow everyone to be mentioned her but California State Senator Mike Machado, County Supervisor Illa Collin, Former Acting Mayor Jimmy Yee, Judge Trina Burger and US Marshal Jerry Enomoto were introduced. Community leaders Dr. Sonny Chong Chairman of CAPITAL along with the group’s legal advisor Jerry Chong, President of the Urban League David Brennen, Johnston Lau and Jeanie Lee pf the Sacramento Chinese community and Dr. Dick Ikeda of Health For All were also present. Russel Postell, President and General Manager of local KXTV News 10 was also present.
 As a reminder here, Bernadette Chiang is running for the Sacramento City Council seat (District 7) in the coming election and is being supported by the local Pakistani and Asian American-community. This is just one aspect of the increasing political role that our people have started to play on the local level in the United States.
Besides Mr. Rashid Ahmad, the other speakers during the evening included Palestinian-American Dr. Al Qazzaz who spoke of the pivotal role that Pakistan has played in US Foreign Policy especially in opening the U.S. window to relations with China. Reverand Dexter McNamara spoke about “God’s Peace”, Father Charles McDermott followed with a prophesy of hope and a prayer. Representing the Jewish faith was Senior Rabbi Brad Bloom who moved us by his words “We are for peace. We are on the same side because we cherish life”. Dr. Irfanul Haq representing local Muslims closed the religion based segment by reciting a Surah and presenting an English prayer for peace.
 After the introduction of Pakistani-American individuals who came from other Northern California cities, and thanking individuals who put in an effort to make this program possible (a long list), Mr. Farhan Sarwar introduced Consul General Raana Rahim and invited her to present her keynote speech.
Mrs. Rahim spoke with great ease and confidence. “Peace in the world was threatened on the 11th of September”, she said. She added that when initially, Pakistan was asked on its willingness to fight terrorism, the reply was that “we are totally on your side in this”. And that has been Pakistan’s role ever since. On terrorism she made it clear that “this is something that humanity should not condone”.
On the current situation with India the Consul General shed a lot of light and stressed the need for dialogue and peace. “We need to give the children of South Asia a better future”, she said. She repeated Pakistan’s official line that “We are willing to talk with India, anywhere and at any time”. She added that too much money and energy in that part of the world, is devoted to defense needs. She spoke of the number  of occasions that President Musharraf has gone the extra distance to talk with India (the handshake at the recent South Asian Summit was mentioned). On the prospect of war between India and Pakistan she said that “we hope that we will be able to deescalate”. She also went into the history of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and its alignment with the United States and touched on the internal situation in Pakistan, especially the positive changes that the Musharraf government has been implementing. Mrs. Rahim ended her speech on an Interfaith note. Commercial Counselor Mr. Tariq Bajwa added to Mrs. Rahim’s talk by providing the economic perspective to the current situation. He said that Pakistan had suffered economically due to the recent war in Afghanistan and while the U.S. is a major trading partner of Pakistan, the perception of buyers of Pakistani goods in this country was that it was a war zone out there and thus Pakistan was currently an undependable supplier of goods. He said that Pakistan was asking for a quota increase on textile products and tariff relief. “We will end up losing close to 2 Billion dollars” (due to this war) and the loss of 1 million jobs”, he said. He also went into the details of Pakistan’s current foreign debt problems and said that Pakistan was asking to some of the debt converted to grants for specific purposes.
A lively question and answer session closed the event. The 400 people that attended this dinner enjoyed the speeches and took this opportunity to socialize. And it appears that since the last random or staged fiasco that occurred in Sacramento roughly 7 years ago, the Pakistan American Association is being revived. The success of this program might just be the beginning that many in this community have been waiting for. In the mean time The Pakistani Cultural Society has been carrying the Pakistani banner here for the past couple of years.
  In closing, the Pakistani community of Sacramento has been able to put together quite a “Day of Peace”. It has received considerable positive feedback in the local press. And if this pursuit of a positive image for Pakistan continues we might just be able to make up for much lost time.

   
   


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