14th August 2006: Various Festive Gatherings of Houstonian Pakistanis
The days and nights of August 11th thru the 14th saw one of the biggest ever gatherings of Houstonian Pakistanis as they celebrated the festive day of the 60th Independence Day of Pakistan. Two festivals were held: One at the Reliant Center on the 11th, and a second at the Sam-Houston Race Park on the 12th. Other significant events that happened in the city included the PAGH Mushairah (public meeting, where poets come to read their poetry; here in this case about Pakistan); a dinner by the Muttaihidah Qaumi Movement (MQM); the Flag-hoisting ceremonies at the Consulate of Pakistan in Northwest Houston, and the PAGH-Pakistan-Center along Dairy Ashford at Bissonnet.
Every year on August 14th, the Nation of Pakistan worldwide celebrates the Day of Independence from the occupation by Great Britain.
As in all the major cities across the USA, several Houston organizations arranged events related to the day. In the past, similar events were held at the George Brown Convention Center, the Astro-Arena, the Reliant Center and the Sam-Houston Race Park. This year, two main Festivals were arranged: one on August 11th at the Reliant Center by the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), and the second at the Sam-Houston Race Park by the Pakistani-American Association of Texas (PAT) on August 12th.
The event of PAT at the Sam Houston Race Park attracted an historic number of Houstonian American Pakistanis and their American friends, colleagues and neighbors. At both the PAGH and PAT events, appreciable numbers of people gathered to say their prayers for Pakistan, the USA and Texas, and to sing Pakistani national songsâ€”especially the national anthem. Children enjoyed the free rides and delectable qulfis and ice-cream.
Families had the pleasure of eating from the out-door barbecue organized by Shahnai Restaurant and Catering Services. A variety of freshly cooked meals were made right in front of oneâ€™s own eyesâ€”a real treat. Famous performers from Pakistan were invited to entertain the gathering. Mitsubishi Baytown, which is the first Pakistani-owned franchise dealership, gave out a brand new car in a raffle at the PAGH eventâ€”it was won by the son of the former ISGH president, Aziz Siddiqui. They had several elegant new models of Mitsubishi Cars at display at both the events. Several others sponsors and vendors had their information stalls as well.
Several leading political figures came to recognize the Independence Day of Pakistan and enjoyed the atmosphere of a real Pakistani-style open air festival. For instance, Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee was present, as were the Texas House of Representatives members Sylvester Turner (Speaker Pro-Tem), Scott Hochberg and Hubert Vo, and City of Houston Councilpersons Sue Lovell, Ron Green and Masrur Javed (MJ) Khan. City Councilman MJ Khan, who was born and raised in Pakistan, gave PAT the official proclamation of Pakistan-Day from the Mayor and City Council.
In the end, all these happenings made the weekend extremely busy and festive for the Houstonian Pakistanis, who had graciously offered these elegant events to their fellow neighbors and citizens.
Controversial Immigration Billboard Campaign Starts In Houston
Posted along the Katy Freeway at Heights Boulevard is a billboard effort by a group focused on stopping lawmakers from passing anything that even resembles amnesty for illegal immigrants. â€œIts (meaning) is very clear,â€ says Steve Elliott, president of Grassfire.org â€œThereâ€™s been tremendous response from all across Texas, and certainly across Houston,â€ he said. Elliot said his group is trying to have an impact on members of Congress who are holding hearings around the country on an immigration policy overhaul.
House and Senate versions of a bill have passed, but look nothing alike. The House bill emphasizes border security and makes it a felony to illegally enter the United States. A majority of senators voted for a plan that gives undocumented workers an eventual path to citizenship.
Texas junior Sen. John Cornyn voted against the Senate bill, which has the support of President Bush. â€œI can tell you from my conversations with constituents around the state of Texas, a significant number of people are angry,â€ Cornyn said. Elliotâ€™s group is among them.
â€œThis is not a question about immigration,â€ Elliot said. â€œItâ€™s a question about stopping illegal immigration and stopping a cultural bombardment in our society. Itâ€™s a national security crisis. Itâ€™s a law and order crisis,â€ he said.
But Latino groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens say the rhetoric is getting out of hand. â€œItâ€™s hateful,â€ LULAC Houston District Director Rick Dovalina said. â€œIâ€™d hate to see the United States become one of those countries where we have right-wing groups instigating and bringing back the racism of the 1960s and â€˜50s,â€ Dovalina said.
Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia would like to see the billboard taken down. â€œThis is not what the spirit of Houston is all about,â€ Garcia said. While he admits City Hall cannot legally do anything to get rid of it, â€œI would call out to community leaders, and ask them to ask that it be taken down,â€ he said. â€¢