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Pakistani Independence Day noted in Lodi with park picnic, barbecue

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Posted: Monday, August 15, 2005 10:00 pm | Updated: 8:34 am, Fri Mar 21, 2014.

About 200 people gathered over the weekend at Blakely Park to mark Pakistan's Independence Day with a picnic and barbecue.

With the once-annual celebration at Lodi Lake called off earlier this month, several members of the Lodi Muslim Mosque on Friday began to make preparations to honor Pakistan's 58th anniversary since independence from England.

Pakistani and American flags flew side by side at the park as celebrants dined on Pakistani food and listened to music.

Pakistan gained independence in 1947. Though he no longer has family there, Mohammad Shoaib said he wishes the best for his native land.

"Every day they move toward democracy, prosperity -- and we pray for that," said Shoaib, president of the Lodi Muslim Mosque and one of the organizers of Sunday's event.

Attendance could have been affected because organizers got the idea for the picnic on Friday, said Shoaib. He had to attend court in Stockton for a hearing on a lawsuit that seeks to remove him as president, and that took what little time there was to publicize the picnic, he said.

Nick Qayyum, a member of the mosque board who also helped organize the picnic, called it "unfortunate" that the larger independence celebration was canceled.

Earlier this month, organizers for that celebration at Lodi Lake, which would have been in its fourth year, canceled their plans because there was no coordinated effort to put on the event.

The South Asian Culture Club and the Community Partnership for Families had organized three prior Independence Day celebration which were heavily attended.

Still, "It came out a pretty good day," Qayyum said of the independence day picnic.

Qayyum said organizers may plan a larger, better-planned celebration next year.

Some in the community wondered if the event at the lake was called off due to the arrests in June of five Pakistani men in an investigation said to be linked to terrorism.

Three of those men -- two former imams and one of their sons -- have agreed to be deported. The others -- father and son Umer and Hamid Hayat -- remain in custody, awaiting trial on charges they lied to federal agents.

Shoaib said organizers wanted to mark the occasion, despite the arrests.

"We do not want to mourn for those two people who are in jail," Shoaib said. "This is a ridiculous thing, to think that we don't want to celebrate."

Contact reporter Jake Armstrong at jakea@lodinews.com.

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