Pakistan: Will the former UK MP's governorship in Punjab herald hope for minorities?

Published 07 August 2013  |  
Sheraz Khan is seen here recently addressing demonstrators outside the Scottish Parliament as they protested against the widespread misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws

As Pakistan has installed Muhammad Sarwar, a former member of the UK parliament, as the new governor of Punjab province on Monday, August 5, 2013, I wonder if the appointment of Mr Sarwar will give the country's long-suffering minorities a glimmer of hope.

The Pakistan-born politician established himself as a "cash and carry millionaire" after arriving in Scotland from his country of origin.

In the Labour landslide victory of 1997, he was elected to Westminster, where he served as a Glasgow MP for 13 years before being succeeded by his son Anas Sarwar - the deputy party leader in Scotland.

I understand that Mr Sarwar has recently renounced his British nationality to serve the people of Punjab. Given that he has spent a good part of his life in the UK and his stint in Westminster, one would hope that he would take measures aimed at protecting the lives and properties of the religious minorities in Pakistan.

In the face of the unresolved issues of the minorities in Pakistan a man of Mr Sarwar's caliber is probably the right person to import the much-cherished UK values of integration, promotion and equality of opportunity to its ethnic minorities up and down the country.

I would expect that any violation of minority rights in Pakistan would outrage him as much as any injustice against any of his former constituents in the UK.

Although advocating for the release of people who have been accused of blasphemy is a choice that is fraught with danger it is hoped that Mr Sarwar will draw inspiration from a gentleman who came before him, namely Mr. Salman Taseer, who was assassinated after calling for Presidential clemency for Asia Bibi.
Doreen Lawrence's continued campaign in the UK to bring to justice the killers of her son Stephen Lawrence should again remind Mr Sarwar of the need to fight for the oppressed.

It is to be hoped that Mr Sarwar takes up the case of Asia Bibi and others like her. This may prove to be the legacy of his governorship.

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