More than 500 Pakistanis in Michigan gathered on Saturday, March 23, 2013 to celebrate the Pakistan Republic Day, at the Petruzzelloâ€™s Banquet Center in Troy. It was the first event of the year hosted by the newly elected board of Pakistan Association of America (PAA) and they pulled out all the stops to make the event a memorable one. The program opened with the recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by the Pakistani and American anthems sung by two students. Shamyl Haq, a student and orator, shed light on the significance of the Pakistan Republic Day and relayed a brief history of how Pakistan was formed.
Shandana Shakoor, general secretary of PAA, welcomed the guests, thanked all the sponsors and volunteers, and introduced the new board for 2013-2014.
â€œThey say that your creativity is at its best when you are short of funds,â€ said Ms. Shakoor when applauding her fellow team members who she claimed â€œworked tirelessly to make this event a success despite the lack of resources.â€
She moved on to a more serious note and talked about the latest tragedies faced by Pakistanis living back home.
â€œThe recent atrocities pertaining to our Shia and Christian communities, and target killings in Karachi, KPK, Punjab and Baluchistan need our immediate attention. PAA strongly condemns such atrocities that are aimed at innocent civilians in Pakistan,â€ she said and asked the audience to observe a minute of silence and pray for those who suffered these crimes. She also invited the community to attend the board meetings or send suggestions and comments to PAA in writing.
The theme of the evening was, however, charity.
Pakistan Association of America (PAA) has a long-standing tradition of helping the needy members of the community. The newly elected president of PAA, Mr. Saleem Shakoor spoke about how he and his team want to revamp these services and make them accessible to more people in the Michigan area.
â€œWe easily spend $10 at McDonalds or other fast food places in one evening, so why canâ€™t we give another $10 back to our community,â€ said Mr. Saleem Shakoor in an impassioned speech about helping the needy. Mr. Shakoor explained the new programs which include the PAA Support program, Car Donation, Medical Care and School Supplies programs. A â€œGood Faith Membership Cardâ€ will entitle members of the community to these services offered by PAA.
Mr. Shakoor urged the attendees to donate so these programs and services can be supported. He said that a commitment of even $10 per month can help support any one of the services and that it is important to give back to the community. People responded favorably and PAA raised more than $ 5,000 by the end of the event.
Vice President, Dr. Sabiha Omar announced that from April 20th 2013, PAA will provide free mental health services to the community, in collaboration with HUDA clinic.
Mr. Ethan Casey, an international journalist and author of the book â€œAlive and Well in Pakistan,â€ was present at the occasion and gave the keynote speech. The honest and poignant account of his travels to, and experiences in, Pakistan were the focal point of his speech. Later on, the attendees were able to purchase his books that were displayed in the lobby where Mr. Casey was available to sign them and answer questions.
As the evening progressed, Saima Khan, the Pakistani Canadian singer, was invited to entertain the audience with a range of musical performances that carried on till after midnight.
The occasion offered something for everyone: a sumptuous dinner and music for all, clothes shopping for ladies, a magic show for children and a renowned journalistâ€™s talk for the intellectuals. By and large, it was a fun-filled evening tempered with many thought-provoking moments and an opportunity to share some of the blessings that Pakistani Americans have come to enjoy in their adopted country.
Pakistan Association of America (Michigan) is a non-profit organization with the mission to facilitate understanding between the United States and Pakistanis in Michigan, via cultural, social and educational programs. PAA is the oldest such organization in Michigan holding 3-4 key events annually.