Pakistani event brings together community, shares culture

by Robyn Repya

More than 500 people packed the Northstar Ballroom in the St. Paul Student Center on Saturday night to celebrate the annual Pakistani Student Association Night.

The event featured performances by PSA members, Pakistani pop star Alamgir and children from the Pakistani community. Between performances, the group served a traditional meal and presented awards to past PSA members.

PSA member and psychology and journalism junior Natasha Chughati said events such as Pakistani Student Association Night are a great way to bring University students and the Pakistani community closer together.

“We’re a small community, but we feel stronger when we come together,” she said.

Chughtai said PSA has played a big role in her life at the University.

“My parents were actually PSA (members). It’s kind of a tradition,” she said.

Ali Siddiqui, PSA vice president and mechanical engineering graduate student, said events such as Pakistani Student Association Night help draw more people to the organization.

“PSA members are increasing. More people are coming and there’s more active participation,” he said.

The event also featured a community organization called the Global Council of Pakistan.

The group focuses on sending money back to Pakistan for community programs.

Siddiqui, a member of both organizations, said GCP, founded by University students, is important to PSA and the Pakistani community.

“We are working for a women’s vocational school project,” Siddiqui said.

In addition, GPC is raising money for a school and collecting old children’s books for a book bank.

Haroon Sheikh, PSA president and electrical engineering graduate student, said the association has a unique objective on campus – trying to show students what Pakistani culture is.

On Saturday, the group performed a mock wedding ceremony for the crowd in traditional Pakistani style, called a Mehndi.

The ceremony usually takes all day and features dancing by both the bride’s and groom’s side of the family.

Also, in accordance with Pakistani culture, the event was alcohol-free to respect Islam’s religious restrictions.

Children from the Pakistani community danced and modeled traditional Pakistani attire.

The boys were dressed in long white shirts and pants, called “shalwar kurtha.” They wore green scarves, called “dupettas,” around their waists to represent Pakistan’s colors.

The girls were dressed in colorful, long flowing skirts called “lenghas.”

Their performance drew cheers from the crowd.

Sheikh said that in addition to informing students of the Pakistani culture, PSA works to help recently immigrated Pakistani students become familiar with life in the United States.

“We help them in their accommodations when they come here,” he said.

Ahmed Siddiqui, a computer science junior from Luther College in Iowa, said he admires the University’s group for its community involvement and organization.

Siddiqui said he and a friend traveled to the Twin Cities for the occasion and were excited to see their PSA friends.

Siddiqui said his school does not have many Pakistani students, so he comes to events on the University’s Twin Cities and Duluth campuses instead.

He said attending these events has inspired him to take action at his own school.

“We just started the Muslim Student Association at Luther – we will have a PSA soon,” he said.

Robyn Repya welcomes comments at [email protected]