Sunday, 18 July 2010
Baroness Warsi gets heroine's welcome in Pakistan
Baroness Warsi, Britain's first Muslim cabinet minister, has returned to her Pakistani roots to be feted as a heroine in her grandmother's village.
Rob Crilly in Bewal
Published: 10:00PM BST 18 Jul 2010
The Telegraph UK
More than 2,000 people cheered and threw fragrant rose petals in the air – not the sort of reception usually afforded the chairman of the British Conservative Party – as she addressed them deep in rural Punjab.
"My grandmother, she was living in this village of Bewal and no one thought that her granddaughter would ever be a minister in the United Kingdom," she said in Urdu, to cries of "zindabad", which means live-long.
Her father left Pakistan in 1960, arriving in Britain with only £2 in his pocket.
He went from working in a mill to running a bed manufacturing business with a turnover of £2m, providing the inspiration for Baroness Warsi's Conservative politics.
Her appointment to the cabinet in May attracted banner headlines in Pakistan, where people are enthralled by her family's immigrant-to-minister story.
The capital Islamabad had been decked out with welcome banners ensuring a tumultuous welcome by the time she arrived in Bewal. Businessmen tossed handfuls of five-rupee notes in the air.
Baroness Warsi, 39, flanked by security guards armed with automatic weapons, said she was delighted to return to the village where her father began his journey.
But she also had a serious message for her audience, some of whom had arrived carrying visa applications for trips to Britain.
Having spelt out the principles that helped her get on in Britain, she called for Pakistanis to help their country in the same way.
"You could say that with all those principles we should go to the UK," she said. "I say you can bring those principles here.
Baroness Warsi has been given a roving brief in Cabinet and asked to use her Pakistani connections to help strengthen relations with Islamabad, and tackle the issue of immigration.
"Britain has always helped us a lot but now she has come here the relationship will be even better," said Malik Farkh, 60, who had waited for two hours in the sweltering heat to see her.
She is the third cabinet minister to visit Pakistan in the past six weeks, a reflection of the country's importance in terms of trade, immigration and the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.