The Nation, Lahore

2 Rabi-us-Sani, 1418 - Thursday, August 7, 1997, Lahore

PSA in Seattle

Dr Rana Jawad Asghar

The University of Washington in Seattle, though, is a public university but is considered as one of the elitist universities of the USA. It was established more than hundred years ago in 1861. Its ranking in medical related fields is in the top five and in many specialities, it is ranked as number one. Medical research is its hallmark and the famous Hepatitis-B vaccine was invented there. It has one of the major cancer and AIDS research centre. Its student body is more than thirty five thousands and its staff and faculty is more than 17,000. But there were only five Pakistani students last year and this year again, the situation has not improved very much. On the other hand, the Indian students are in hundreds and have a very active Indian Students Association for the last many years.

This year, we the handful of Pakistani students there (myself, Ahmed, Ali and Asif), decided to organise Pakistan Students Association. This desire made us a target of the so-called 'Islamic extremists' who labelled us as puppets of Western civilisation and our country as one created by imperial powers for its own agenda. We received a lot of 'hate-mail' from our 'Muslim' brothers (I have already written it earlier).

But we went ahead with our plans and the Pakistan Students Association was established in April, this year in UW. At the end of the same month, it co-organised a big Pakistani event in Seattle. The Pakistan Association of Greater Seattle, which is an active association of Pakistanis in the area and has active members like Mr Rizwan Samad, Kamran Ahmad, Dr Hilal, Asif Nisar, Mumtaz Malik, Munir Rizvi and Dilshad. It arranged a musical evening with famous Pakistani singers. In Seattle's history, Pakistani shows had never been a success. This time, PSA took the challenge and started one of the biggest advertisement campaigns for a Pakistani show and the University was filled with big and small posters and advertisements were also circulated through Internet and email lists. All this effort brought fruit and a hall of eight hundred was oversold and a few moments after the show started, the doors had to be closed. Besides Pakistanis, the audience included Indians, a considerable number of US and other international students, who came to listen Pakistani music.

The singers were - Junaid Jamsheed, Ali Haider, Hadeeqa Kiyani and Fakhar-e-Alam, who started the show with his acrobatics. Though I am not personally attracted to this kind of singing but I must say that he has made a lot of fans. One of my fellow students at UW - Umar, is his greatest fan. Everyone who visits his room has to listen the 'Bhangra' of Fakhar-e-Alam. So many US students who knew something about Bhangra came to the event to listen him. Children liked his way of singing but I think if he refrains from singing like Elvis Presley and works on his own style which is quite popular with some, it may be much better for his career. Fakhar-e-Alam told me how in his bleak days, he sold his room TV and put a cover on an empty box in the room which looked like a TV to have money to produce his first cassette. But he got popularity when he started to work as a DJ for a popular TV music show. I have also seen some of these shows and I think, he is a better compere than a singer. He has a talent for comparing and this is not in any way less than the talent of singing and acting. By the way, he has also finished a spell of shooting of an Urdu film in Maldives with Resham.

Hadeeqa Kiyani has changed very much from the TV children music programme which she co-hosted with late Khalil Ahmed. Ali Haider is truly popular among both Pakistanis and Indians. His songs were a big success and everyone was singing with him at our show. Then came Junaid Jamsheed with his famous Pakistani song 'Dil Dil Pakistan' and the crowd started dancing. Most of the youth (children of Pakistani parents) had never come to Pakistan but the song created some special effect on them. Junaid is an engineer from Engineering University, Lahore and was studying there at the same time when I was in Allama Iqbal Medical College. We share some common friends and he told me that how some Iqbalians encouraged him and how he arranged his first show in Lahore. In short, the show was so successful that even the promoters and singers did not expect such a response in Seattle.

PSA got widespread recognition after this show. Nearly two weeks after this programme, PSA arranged a Pakistani lunch with the cooperation of FIUTS (a UW organisation for International students). We arranged pakoras, kebabs and other snacks. Even one of our American fellow student Blythe cooked fresh cakes for us. Fellow students, Sarah, Gull, Umar, Tariq, Qasim, Irfan, Khalid and other USA-born Pakistani students helped us to manage the table where we had displayed information about Pakistan, a TV and video with Pakistani songs of Musarrat Nazeer. Almost 300 students visited our stall and it was a big success.

In the end of May, PSA was invited to attend a dinner arranged by the business community of Seattle. Sponsors of this event apart from Rotary were Microsoft, Boeing and many other international business firms. PSA managed a Pakistani stall there and mingled with the business community and passed on to them information about Pakistan. PSA was one of the handful organisations at the UW who were selected to represent their country at that prestigious event.

So, PSA was able to arrange or participate in three big events in just one quarter. PSA has an email service and a web page at http://weber.u.washington edu/~psa with details about its activities and some beautiful pictures and links of Pakistan. We are planning yet more activities in the fall quarter and want to make it as one of the most active student associations of UW. This may be our contribution in the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Pakistan as now we have provided a link to children of Pakistani families who were losing their previous links to Pakistan on a higher pace.


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