The room presented a tapestry of cultures, faiths and traditions – they were Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. They assembled in the nicely lit and well-decorated restaurant hall to follow a beautiful American tradition – to show interfaith harmony by breaking the bread together at Iftar time.
Saeed Hassan and Syed Adnan Bukhari, the spirited community organizers and leaders, have brought their Progressive American Community Empowerment (PACE) to a level few Pakistani American community organizations have achieved. PACE team includes, among others, Kamal Tahir, Shabam Agha, and Kacy. While PACE is not shy to take pride in its Pakistani roots, it identifies itself as purely an American organization.
“We are an American organization which wishes to play its role in the social and political arena,” Hasan said while welcoming a room full of his guests at Shirazee Cafe, an upscale Pakistani restaurant in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Both Hassan and Bukhari emceed the event.
In attendance were many familiar faces of Queens’ political circuit, aspiring, and elected officials. Ayesha Ali, Pakistan’s Consul General in New York also added her presence to the evening and briefly addressed the audience. Besides state Senator John C. Liu, Linda Lee, NY City Council member from District 23, Mayor Eric Adams senior advisor Ahsen Chughtai, the Iftar dinner was attended by several candidates running for different offices.
They included Robert Zimmerman, Democratic candidate from New York’s 3rd Congressional District, NY State Assembly candidate from District 24 Mizan Chaudhary, Queens Civil Court judge candidate Thomas M Oliva, Civil Court Judge candidate Karen Lin, candidate for NY state Senate from District 17 Japneet Singh, besides a number of candidates for district leaders of the Democratic Party and city officials including Dr. Mariam Singh, Director of Compliance at New York City Department of Corrections.
“This gathering shows the diversity of New York City,” Pakistan’s Consul General Ayesha Ali said in her brief remarks. She hoped that the Pakistani and the Muslim community will continue their political activism. She applauded PACE for its activism and hoped that more Pakistani Americans will join the mainstream and win political offices.
Ahsen Chughtai, in his passionate speech, hoped that more Pakistani Americans and Muslims will reach political offices. He pointed out that New York City government was witnessing more diversity under Mayor Eric Adams. He said there were about 2000 Muslim police officers of which 600 were of Pakistan origin. He said Pakistani police officers were in higher ranks, including four captains.
Linda Lee, in her remarks, promised to strengthen diversity in the city government. She noted the increasing participation of Asians in the city’s politics. She added that she will work hard for the inclusion of Muslims and Pakistanis in campaigns and public offices. Robert Zimmerman in his brief remarks expressed identical views and vowed to promote diversity both in his campaign and office.
The event was followed by networking during which different candidates introduced themselves to a select group of voters.
Glimpses of the event