TORONTO: Thousands of Pakistan and Bhangra Lovers joined the Pakistan Independence Day Celebrations at the Nathan Philip Square (Toronto City Hall) on Sunday, August 13, 2006. It was decided to celebrate on Sunday instead of Monday, August 14, to enable large number of people to take part in the celebrations. The idea clicked and the people, of various other communities as well, fully enjoyed the occasion, fun and entertainment.

The lively and impressive Independence Day Celebrations has become one of the major events of Toronto, the heart and soul of Canada. It helps connect people and communities and build bridges between them. This is one of the major achievements of the Pakistani community and the credit goes to the true and charismatic leadership of Ghalib Iqbal, Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto, his Consulate team and the Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee members. Congratulations for this achievement and great success.

The distinguished guests present on the occasion were mostly leading officials and personalities of the country, province and city including Wajid Khan, MP, Mike Colle, MPP and Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Armand Laparge, Police Chief, Khalid Usman, Councillor for Markham, and many others.

Another Independence Day Celebrations function was organized at the Maple Banquet Hall on August 14, 2006, which too was largely attended.

MIKE COLLE: Mike Colle, Ontario’s Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, in his impressive address at the Maple Banquet Hall, said:” The Canadians of Pakistani origin are really great friends. We all can play a great role. In Canada, none of us is a minority. Respect and unity are critically important. In the matter of principle, it is critically important to stand together.”

        He said: “Canada has incredible potential. The Canadians of Pakistani Origin too have great potential and intelligence and can do a lot for Canada. They have strong family fabric, culture and values.”

        Mike Colle said: “We must promote exchanges because exchanges in a positive way can help in the enrichment process. We need to focus on stronger ties and building of bridges. For this we should know more about Pakistan and Canada. By joining this celebration, we are celebrating the great partnership between the two countries.”

        He said: “We must learn from Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He looked towards the way for building instead of criticizing. People must follow Jinnah and Ghalib Iqbal. Both of them have vision.”

        Mike Colle highly praised Ghalib Iqbal and said: “ I have seen and met many consul generals but have found Ghalib Iqbal as one of the best and excellent consul generals. I am greatly impressed by his character, messages and tremendous contributions. He has done a lot for the people. Ghalib is spreading the message of Unity, Faith and Discipline in a true manner. The people must follow his leadership. This message should reach the government and people of Pakistan.”

        He praised the leadership role of Armand Laparge, Police Chief. He also praised all the Canadian officials present on the occasion.

He defended and praised the role of DART in the earthquake region of Pakistan and said: “We should not forget the great tragedy and do our best to help the people”

He praised the owner of Maple Banquet Hall and said: “This man struggled hard with determination to become what he is today. He is an example of success.”        

GHALIB IQBAL: Ghalib Iqbal, in his message and addresses on the two occasions, said: “In 1947, under the leadership of our great leader Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Muslims of the Sub-Continent achieved a separate homeland in which they could lead their lives in accordance with their values. In addition, all those who belonged to other faiths, also became a part of Pakistan and have since then worked tirelessly towards the betterment of our beautiful homeland.   

“The Canadians of Pakistani Origin have always been in the forefront to strengthen the relations between Pakistan and Canada. It is imperative that they continue to work with the same zeal and enthusiasm so that the relationship between their country of origin and country of adoption could further strengthen in the years ahead.

“It is also important that the Canadians of Pakistani Origin actively participate in the mainstream activities in Canada to become an important segment of the society. Events like Independence Day at Toronto City Hall always provide an opportunity to the community to get together and also encourage the younger generation to get to know their roots.”

Ghalib Iqbal said: “We must love both Pakistan and Canada and celebrate Independence Days of both the country of origin and the country of adoption in a befitting manner. The Canadians always show their love by joining our celebrations and we must reciprocate by joining their celebrations as well. This is extremely important for the Pakistani community in Canada, for bringing Pakistan and Canada closer and for a very strong and friendly relationship. We must always remember this.”

He said: “My message to the people is Stick Together, Live Together and Work Together. Struggle tirelessly and aim for the mainstream and the top. That is our goal and place. If we stick to Unity, Faith and Discipline, nobody can harm us or stop us from moving forward.”

He stated: “It’s really not the Independence Day but the passion and feeling which bring and join us together. This is why the day assumes added importance for the Canadians of Pakistani Origin.”

Ghalib Iqbal said: “It is important that people integrate. Luckily, the rate of integration in Canada is really impressive. Those who failed to integrate did not become a part of the society and the country. People belonging to this category are frustrated ones and get arrested. They bring bad name to the country of origin.”

He said: “Unfortunately, the media people start looking for links with Pakistan, when anything happens or anyone is arrested. When we do wrong, the country of origin is blamed. When we do right, the country of adoption is proudly praised. We must understand this fact and always try to protect our integrity and identity.”

 Ghalib said: “Canada is the only country which gives such love, equality and opportunity. We all know, understand and acknowledge this. We have to be proactive and positive. By putting our children in separate schools we cut them off from the system. They are isolated. Ultimately, the children will suffer and will not forget and forgive those responsible. So let’s be part of the generation which is engaged in positive and constructive work.”

MIKE COLLE PRAISED: Ghalib Iqbal highly praised Mike Colle and his tremendous contributions for Pakistan and the Pakistani community. He said: Mike Colle always remained in the forefront to help us, whenever needed. He did a lot for the  earthquake hit region. We must respect and remain close to people like Mike Colle. 

He thanked Mike Colle for this generosity and love and for bringing Pakistan and Canada closer. He also thanked other Canadians who joined the celebrations and are always parts of our social, cultural and religious events. All these people are contributing tremendously in promotion of our community and strong ties between the two countries.

Police Chief Armand Laparge is particularly very popular and seen in most of the major events. He along with his team of police officers mixes and moves with the people as if a part of the Pakistani community. His presence has helped remove doubts and fears from the minds of the people and has inspired many youngsters to come forward and apply for the police force. This itself is a great positive achievement. 

Ghalib thanked members of the Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee for their tireless efforts to make this event a real success. He congratulated the members for organizing this successful event.

OMAR ALGHABRA: Omar Alghabra, in his very brief address at the Maple Banquet Hall, said: “Canada owes the people of Pakistani origin a lot. They have contributed tremendously. We must all work together for making Canada strong.”

ARMAND LAPARGE: Armand Laparge, Police Chief, said: “We are proud of freedom and democracy in Canada. I consider it important to share the happiness with the people of Pakistani origin. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is a great personality and I consider him as one of the world’s greatest leaders.”

NATHAN PHILIP SQUARE: Despite the scorching heat, visitors went round various stalls and collected the goods displayed and offered by them. It was a good picnic and get together for them. From morning till night, they enjoyed every moment.

 Braving the heat and great rush, the Bhangra Lovers occupied the seats over four hours before the speeches and musical part of the celebrations. It became extremely difficult to handle the electrified and enthusiastic Bhangra Lovers, who made the security officials totally crazy and helpless. Even scuffles took place between the security officials and the people.

Every person wanted to reach the stage to hear the speeches of dignitaries and the songs of Shahzad Roy, Jawwad Ahmed and Humaira Arshad. Many special invitees could not and dare enter the designated area because of the great rush of people at the entrance and aggressive mood of the security officials.

FOCUS: The organizers must focus on this segment of arrangements to enable the VIPs and Special Invitees attend the ceremonies and celebrations respectfully, instead of being roughly tackled, pushed and pulled by the security officials and the uncontrollable crowd. The fact is that the great rush of Bhangra Lovers at the entrance renders the security officials and organizers helpless. This happens almost every year. We know our charged crowd, their nature, interest and enthusiasm and must make preparations accordingly so that everybody can enjoy in the best manner.     

I stood outside for about an hour before Bilal, one of the main organizers, helped me and my family reach near the stage. He was seen running here and there madly along with others to help the people and manage the affairs. 

The name of my son-in-law, Irshad Haroon, was on the invitees list but he was denied entry and pushed back by the angry security officials. I told him to protect himself from the highly charged crowd and security officials. Any attempt to enter would have landed him in the hospital. Wow! What a great crowd and Lovers of Pakistan and Bhangra.

FAILURE: The Punjabi songs mesmerized the crowd and kept all of them dancing, jumping, shouting and clapping. It looked like they were let loose after a long time to enjoy such free entertainment. This showed that we need many such shows in a year on special occasions to provide the Bangra lovers good and free entertainment.

The Bhangra Lovers almost went berserk and were uncontrollable. Their feelings and joy were worth seeing and recording. Many climbed the stage and started dancing. They kept dodging the security officials and jumping over the fence to reach the area designated for the VIPs and Special Invitees. The security arrangements proved a failure.

POPULAR COUPLE: Urooj Waqar, the popular beautiful lady and a talented artist, was the MC on the occasion. She handled the crowd skillfully and smilingly. Her husband Jasir (Abul Hasan) Waqar was General Secretary and Chief Organizer of the Pakistan Independence Day Celebrations 2006. The couple is very popular in the community for their social, humanitarian and cultural contributions.

The Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee is a non-profit organization. It was formed in 2005 to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day in Canada. It is held in the true spirit of Unity, Faith and Discipline.

This is the third consecutive year of flag hoisting ceremony at the Toronto City Hall. All of them proved tremendously successful. Due to the popularity and entertainment, every year the number of crowd increases greatly and more charged and electrified. The organizers must think seriously to manage it properly and respectfully. It is the crowd, which makes the organizers crazy and proud as well and the show successful.

SOUVENIR: A souvenir was also published on the occasion, which included messages of President of Pakistan Gen Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty, Mayor of Toronto David Miller, Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto Ghalib Iqbal, Chairman of Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee Rear Admiral ® Sohail A. Khan, General Secretary and Chief Organizer Jasir (Abul Hassan) Waqar, introduction of Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, profile of Pakistan, introduction of Master of Ceremony S. Urooj Waqar and Nauman Khan, a reporter/co-anchor of OMNI News, South Asian Edition, and National Anthems of Pakistan and Canada.

MAPLE BANQUET HALL: Jasir (Abul Hassan) Waqar and Urooj Waqar of Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee organized the Pakistan Independence Day Celebrations on August 14, 2006, at the Maple Banquet Hall. It was attended by a large number of dignitaries including Ghalib Iqbal, Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto, Omar Alghabra, MP, Mike Colle, MPP and Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Armand Laparge, Police Chief.

DELAYED: The function was scheduled to start at 7.30 PM but was delayed and started after 9 PM. Some of the Canadian dignitaries were observed feeling bad and uneasy. They were punctual and had arrived on time. Some had other appointments and wanted to leave. Omar Alghabra left immediately after his brief address.

Most of the guests of Pakistani origin, as usual and habitual, followed the Pakistani pattern and came very late. The organizers were quite disturbed and the changing expressions on their faces could easily be read. They were helpless.

 With this pace and attitude, they can never join the race with Canadians and become a responsible, effective and important part of the society, system and mainstream. It is time they change their attitude, habits and lifestyles. We must learn to respect others and understand the worth and value of their time and the principle of punctuality. We dream of success but act irresponsibly and expect good results.

The function here started with recitation of the Holy Quran by Raza Jamal, a Grade 9 student, who is memorizing the holy book. National anthems of both Pakistan and Canada were played. A documentary on Pakistan, prepared by Urooj Waqar, was shown.  Urooj Waqar was the MC.

AWARDS: Jasir (Abul Hassan) Waqar and Urooj Waqar presented a book on Islamic Architecture to Mike Colle. Mike said: “We need to teach the fellow Canadians about the Islamic Architecture. This way we can make the people understand the importance of Islamic Architecture and contributions.”

Urooj Waqar presented a shield to Police Chief Armand Laparge.

Ghalib Iqbal gave awards to Irfan, owner of Maple Banquet Hall, Badar Munir of Akhbaar-e-Pakistan, Arshad Bhatti of Radio Pakistan, Arifa Muzaffar of Saz-o-Awaz (received by her husband), Nauman Khan, reporter/co-anchor of OMNI News-South Asian Edition, Captain Gabriel, Staff Sargeant Sandra, PC Mansoor Ahmed, PC Anoop Sharma, PC Sajid Meer, PC Curtis, PC Dan and other Canadian officials. He also gave awards to volunteers: Aamir Qureshi, Hassan Qureshi, Sheikh and Roshni.

Jasir (Abul Hassan) Waqar and Urooj Waqar gave a set of books to Ghalib Iqbal.

        QAWWALI: Shahid Ali Khan, the famous Qawwali, Naat and Ghazal artist, performed on the occasion. The Canadian VIPs and dignitaries fully enjoyed the performance. As usual and habitual, some of the guests of Pakistani origin, after the delicious dinner and when the Qawwali started, began leaving quietly. Perhaps, they could not digest anymore.  

         INSPIRATION: It was announced on the occasion by the Canadian Forces representative that the two volunteers---Aamir Qureshi and Hassan Qureshi---would join the Canadian forces. The participation of Canadian Forces officials in the celebrations inspired the youngsters and produced instant result. 

Javed Zaheer (Masters in International Relations), Canadian of Pakistani Origin (CPO), Professional Freelance Journalist, Veteran Active Member  (VAM) of Toronto Press Club, Member of The Ontario Club, Member of National Ethnic Press & Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC), Council Member of Karachi Press Club (Pakistan), served as Senior Sub-Editor of Pakistan’s leading English Daily DAWN (1986-1999).  Associated with Journalism Profession since 1974 and believes in fierce and free expression.

Address:  1709-35 Thorncliffe Park Drive, Toronto, Ontario, M4H 1J3, Canada.  Tel # (416) 696-0981.

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