Whether you are a graduate of Karachi University or the child of a bus driver, everyone has a future laden with potential and possibilities unknown. This rundown of 15 foreign politicians of Pakistani origin with tremendously inspiring stories of climbing up the bureaucratic ladder, who aspired to impact the communities they represent and work towards the realisation of a more integrated society will have you motivated and inspired for what you can achieve, and become a source of pride for your community.
Pakistani origin foreign politicians in the US
Sada Cumber is a Pakistani–American businessman and diplomat. He assumed his duties as Special Envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 2008, with his term ending in 2009. As Special Envoy, Mr. Cumber served as the U.S. representative to the OIC, and advanced United States interests among the OIC’s 57 member nations, including promoting mutual understanding and dialogue while combating intolerance, extremism and the conditions which created it.
He is regularly invited by national and international organizations to speak on Ethics of Persuasion, Entrepreneurship and Governance. He has been extensively written and quoted in numerous national and international publications such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Scribe Business (German), Austin American Statesman, Business Journal and other publications. He has also met with President George W. Bush as the First U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Wednesday.
Faiz Shakir is an American Democratic political advisor. Most recently he is the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, Shakir previously worked as an aide to Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, was an editor-in-chief of the ThinkProgress blog, and was the political director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Raised in Florida by Pakistani immigrants, Shakir is a progressive liberal and an advocate for Muslim American communities.
The Harvard graduate is the first Pakistani and Muslim American to head up a major presidential campaign. Shakir has been deeply immersed in the world of activism and has managed to cultivate several important connections in the Democratic Party. Over the past decade-and-a-half, he has developed a stellar resume by working with some of the biggest Democratic legislators and top-notch think tanks and civil liberties advocacy groups.
Sadaf Jaffer is an American politician and scholar. She is the Mayor of Montgomery Township, Somerset County, in the U.S. state of New Jersey, having taken office on January 3, 2019. She is the first woman of South Asian descent to serve as mayor of a town in New Jersey, and the first Muslim woman to serve as a mayor in the United States. Jaffer was first elected to Montgomery’s township committee in 2017. She is a postdoctoral research associate at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies.
Pakistani origin foreign politicians in the UK
Anas Sarwar is a Scottish Labour Party politician who has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Glasgow region since 2016. He previously served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow Central from 2010 until being defeated in 2015 and Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party from 2011 until 2014.
In 2017, he campaigned for the Scottish Labour Party leadership but lost to Richard Leonard. Sarwar was elected at the 2010 general election as MP for Glasgow Central, succeeding his father Mohammad Sarwar; who was the first-ever Muslim MP in the UK and increasing the previously held majority. His parliamentary interests included foreign policy and international development, with specific areas of concern being Palestine and Kashmir.
Sadiq Khan is a British politician who has served as the Mayor of London since 2016. Much has been made of his British Pakistani ethnicity as well as him being Muslim, but he has stressed that those parts of his identity merely strengthen his willingness to serve all parts of society. He has worked to build cohesion among London’s diverse communities.
President Trump has attacked him via tweets with Khan replying that the President has become a poster-boy for the far-right. He was previously a Member of Parliament (MP) for Tooting from 2005 until 2016. Khan considers himself as a practising Muslim. He quotes from the Quran and hadith when discussing terrorism.
His journey to arguably one of the highest posts in the UK included being a human rights solicitor, chair of the human rights group Liberty, councillor for Wandsworth, and then MP for Tooting from 2005-2016. He is a member of the Labour Party and served as Minister in two posts in Gordon Brown’s government as well as serving in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet in more senior ministerial posts.
Sajid Javid, a Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, is one of the most influential British Muslim politicians of Pakistani origin. He was considered close to then Prime Minister Cameron and is one of the five most influential ministers. He has served as Britain’s Business Secretary and has also served as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. He was Home Secretary from 2018 to 2019 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2019 to 2020, until his resignation from the post. Javid was the first British Asian to hold one of the Great Offices of State in the UK.
Baron Nazir Ahmed is a member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. He was created a life peer on the recommendation of Prime Minister Tony Blair in 1998. Many of his political activities relate to the Muslim community both in the UK and abroad. He led the first delegation on behalf of the British Government on the Muslim pilgrimage of the Hajj.
On 19 June 2007 Ahmed criticised the honouring of Salman Rushdie with a knighthood because of what he saw as Rushdie’s offensiveness to Islam. He was reported to have said, “It’s hypocrisy by Tony Blair, who two weeks ago was talking about building bridges to mainstream Muslims, and then he’s honouring a man who has insulted the British public and been divisive in community relations.”
Lord Nazir Ahmed was the first Muslim who entered the House of Lords and made history as the first Muslim peer. Lord Nazir Ahmed has been vocal on the issue of Kashmir and has been involved in many campaigns.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is a British lawyer, politician and member of the House of Lords who served as co-Chairwoman of the Conservative Party from 2010 to 2012. She served in Cameron–Clegg coalition, first as the Minister without portfolio between 2010 and 2012, then as the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and as the Minister of State for Faith and Communities, until her resignation citing her disagreement with the Government’s policy on the Israel–Gaza conflict in August 2014.
The working-class daughter of Pakistani immigrants, who grew up in West Yorkshire, she was the first female Muslim to sit at the cabinet table.When she walked up Downing Street for her first cabinet meeting, dressed in a traditional South Asian salwar-kameez, it was a landmark moment in British politics.
Warsi established and co-chaired HM Government’s first Ministerial Task Force on Islamic Finance. In the context of the United Kingdom debate over veils, a Tory MP proposed banning burqas in public in 2010. Warsi responded that the garment does not limit women from engaging in everyday life.In 2009, she was named as “Britain’s most powerful Muslim woman” by an Equality and Human Rights Commission panel and in 2010 as one of the world’s “500 most influential Muslims” by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a Middle East think tank.
Rehman Chishti is a Pakistani–British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Gillingham and Rainham since the 2010 general election. He is currently the UK’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. He was recently the Vice Chair of the Conservative Party for Communities, appointed in the 2018 cabinet reshuffle.
Chisthi also served as the Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Pakistan. For the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership to the European Union, Chisti voted to Leave, having made it clear he had taken that decision after listening to his constituents who voted almost 65% in favour of Leave.
Yasmin Qureshi is a British Labour Party politician and a barrister practising criminal law. She headed the criminal legal section of the UN Mission in Kosovo and was later appointed Director of the department of Judicial Administration there. She was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bolton South East in the May 2010 general election. She became Shadow Minister for International Development in April 2020.
In 2010, Qureshi, Rushanara Ali and Shabana Mahmood, elected at the same time, became Britain’s first female Muslim MPs. Qureshi is also the first woman to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Bolton South East.
In response to the Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis Qureshi has called for the government to condemn the crisis and work more with the international community to seek a rapid end to it. She commented that “this is one of the worst outbreaks of violence in decades, yet the international community is effectively remaining silent as we watch another Srebrenica and Rwanda unfold before our eyes“.
Shabana Mahmood is a British Labour Party politician and barrister, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Birmingham, Ladywood since the May 2010 general election. Her parents hail from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir. Along with Rushanara Ali and Yasmin Qureshi, Mahmood became one of the UK’s first female Muslim MPs.
In August 2014, Mahmood announced that she would continue to support boycotts of products from Israeli settlements. Mahmood stated she has “a difference of view with my party.” In justifying her position, Mahmood stated that “We all agree that Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal under international law and they are not part of Israel.
Read more: The World’s Smallest Things
As such, they are an obstacle to a two state solution and a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.” In January 2014, Mahmood was nominated for the Politician of the Year award at the British Muslim Awards. She is seen as a frontline leader in the Labour ranks.
Pakistani origin foreign politicians in Australia
Mehreen Faruqi is an Australian politician who has been a Senator for New South Wales since 2018, representing the Greens. She was chosen to fill a casual vacancy caused by the resignation of Lee Rhiannon. She had previously served in the New South Wales Legislative Council between June 2013 and August 2018. In February 2018, Faruqi attempted to block the Christian Friends of Israeli Communities from hosting an event on the basis of Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank.
Kamal Qureshi is a Danish-Pakistani politician. Qureshi is a member of the Socialist People’s Party and has been a member of the Danish parliament, the Folketing, from 2001 to 2011. He was his party’s spokesperson on health and minority issues. He is, furthermore, a party representative in the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).
Qureshi has contributed to various publications on multiculturalism and equal rights and is an active participant in the public debate in Denmark as well as a popular lecturer. Throughout the years Kamal Qureshi has participated in humanitarian work, and been involved in association work.
Among other things, he has been with a humanitarian organisation “Folkekirkens Nødhjælp” in Iraq, working as a doctor, during the war. He started the campaign “Room for diversity”, in 2004, as a protest against the Danish government’s view of humanity.
Abid Qayyum Raja is a Norwegian lawyer and Liberal Party politician who has served as Minister of Culture since 2020. He was elected to the Parliament of Norway as representative for Akershus in 2013 where he serves as second deputy chair of the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications and also is a member of the Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs. In October 2017, Raja was elected as the vice-president of the Parliament of Norway, the second time in Norway’s history that a Muslim has been elected to that office.
Hadia Tajik is a Pakistani-Norwegian jurist, journalist and politician. In September 2012, she was appointed Minister of Culture and, at 29 years of age, became the youngest minister to serve in the Norwegian government. She is the first Muslim and Asian member of government, and is a Member of Parliament for the Labour Party representing Oslo. Unlike some of her older predecessors and colleagues, Tajik is an enthusiastic user of social media, and an avid supporter of E-books, and as a result she is often called Norway’s “first digital Minister of Culture“.