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
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
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.