Andrew Whitaker, Scotsman, July 20, 2013
The UK’s first Muslim MP, Mohammad Sarwar, is to surrender his British nationality to take up a senior post with the Pakistani government, it emerged on Friday.
Former Glasgow MP Mr Sarwar last night flew to Pakistan for talks with the country’s prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Scottish Labour has confirmed.
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.
Now he is set to take up a senior post in the Pakistan government, though the exact role has yet to be confirmed. However, it is understood that, in line with Pakistani government rules, he will have to forfeit his British citizenship and accept full nationality in his country of origin.
Mr Sarwar is thought to be keen to ensure there is no conflict with the Pakistani laws which currently bar dual nationals from taking up public posts in Pakistan.
A source close to him said that Mr Sarwar consulted lawyers in Pakistan who told him that his British nationality will create problems for him and his appointment will be challenged.
Mr Sarwar, who was thought to have retired from frontline politics, will take up his post in the aftermath of widespread unrest.
The recently-elected Sharif beat former Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan in a bitterly fought election this year. Anas Sarwar yesterday Tweeted that his father was ready for a “new challenge” in the poverty-ravaged nation, which was under military rule until recently.
He Tweeted: “Wish Sarwar snr. all the best for his new challenge in Pakistan. We will miss him but know he is determined to make a difference.”
Mr Sarwar’s imminent appointment in Pakistan ends speculation that Labour was in talks with the former MP about his possible nomination as a member of the House of Lords.
It had been speculated that Mr Sarwar was going to replace Wajid Shamsul Hasan as Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London.
However, Sharif is thought to have decided that his services were needed in Pakistan rather than in London.
Mr Sarwar’s move to Pakistan represents the latest chapter in a colourful career that saw him criticise the foreign policy of Tony Blair in an open letter to the then Prime Minister from opponents of US military interventions. He was also suspended by the Labour Party in 1997 after being charged with election offences, though this was lifted when he was cleared in 1999.
He was one of 18 MPs who signed a Commons motion backing a Team GB football team at the 2012 Olympics, saying football “should not be any different from other competing sports and our young talent should be allowed to show their skills on the world stage”.
He has estimated assets of £16 million, mainly from the family wholesale cash and carry business, United Wholesale Grocers, which Sarwar and his brother founded in 1982.
The brothers split the business in 2002, with Sarwar forming United Wholesale (Scotland) while his brother retained the previous name.