Sayeeda Warsi, revamping Pakistan's image

Reuters May 16, 2010

GUJJAR KHAN: The rise of a Pakistani-born Briton to become the first Muslim woman named in a British cabinet has given Pakistan something to cheer after weeks of introspection and blame over the failed New York bombing.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative Party's chairwoman, has been named minister without portfolio by Prime Minister David Cameron in his new coalition government.

In Pakistan, a country where many fear they are being stigmatised as "terrorists", people are jubilant over her appointment. Born into a modest family which migrated from Pakistan's central town of Gujjar Khan to Britain in the 1960s, Warsi has been involved in politics since her college days.

Newspapers prominently published photos of Warsi standing in front of 10 Downing Street and television channels interviewed her proud relatives and family friends in Gujjar Khan. Warsi runs five vocational training centres for orphaned girls in villages near Gujjar Khan through a women's charity. Cameron visited Gujjar Khan with her in 2008.

"We feel proud that she is from us," said Hina Shaukat, a student in a vocational training centre in Bewal village near Gujjar Khan. Eight girls sat around her, busily sewing.

At a time when there is an impression all over the world that all terrorism emanates from Pakistan, Sayeeda Warsi's appointment is like a breath of fresh air," said Warsi's cousin, Nusrat Mubashar. "If some people are involved in terrorism, it does not mean that every Pakistani child is a terrorist," Mubashar said.