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A day of Pakistani culture in Washington

May 19, 2008

WASHINGTON, May 18: For one whole day and half the night Pakistani music, food and dresses were the talk of the town in the US capital, not the war on terror – thanks to the first ever open house day at the Pakistan Embassy.

The drones, the Taliban insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists were pushed in the background as more than 4,000 people, mostly non-Pakistani Americans, thronged the Pakistan Embassy in Washington to do bhangra and eat kebabs.

The visitors included Washington’s mayor Adrian M. Fenty, senior government officials and think-tank experts. But what surprised everyone was the presence of hundreds of ordinary Americans. Some danced outside the main gate when the embassy had to close the gate for a while due to crowding.

Pakistani furniture, jewellery and dresses were also for sale but the food stalls did a roaring business. People queued outside the food stalls, sometimes for as much as half an hour, to get a plate of sizzling kebabs with naans.

“It is not enough to produce quality goods,” said acting ambassador Aslam Khan. “It is also important to let the world know that what you produce is good.”

Abrar ul Haq and Ainee, enthralled the crowd.

Works of artists, Samina Qureshi, Jimmy Engineer and Qaiser Iqbal, adorned the walls of the main lobby and were watched with keen interest.

Pakistani and non-Pakistani Americans also filled the auditorium to watch “Khuda Kay Liye,” a film that deals with the problem of extremism. The film was shown four times during the day and each time extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the audience.

“This is a unique occasion,” said Mr Khan. “We wanted to introduce the country’s culture, art and music and it was successful beyond our imagination.”