London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s upcoming visit to Pakistan is the first visit ever by a London mayor. With a view to bolster trade and cultural links between London and Pakistan, his visit is particularly interesting given his connection with the subcontinent, “As someone whose grandparents were born in India, and whose parents moved to London from Pakistan, I feel a deep affinity for the subcontinent,” the mayor said. Khan’s personal story, while quintessentially British, is one that may deeply resonate in Pakistan. His victory at the polls to become the first Muslim to lead a major western capital is a testament to a life of hard work and determination. Khan has not emerged from the privileged background of his political counterparts. He was born in 1970 — shortly after his parents had moved to London from Pakistan. His father, Amanullah Khan, worked as a London bus driver while his mother, Sehrun, was a seamstress. As one of eight siblings, Khan and his family lived on a council estate in a small three-bedroom house. He shared a room with his brother until he was 24. He credits his parents’ work ethic with teaching him the value of hard work. Recalling his childhood, he said that his father worked long hours just to keep the family financially afloat. His mother also worked long hours while raising the family. As a result, Khan started working as soon as possible. As a student during his holidays he undertook a variety of jobs including delivering newspapers and working on a building site. It was after graduating in law and working in human rights that Khan began to make his mark. Khan has not emerged from the privileged background of his political counterparts Though he has risen to the highest echelons of the UK’s political elite, his childhood experiences seem to have kept his feet firmly on the ground. In the face of formidable opposition, it was his focus on the real issues facing the people that won him the mayoral election: his mission to make housing more affordable, his focus on reducing pollution in the capital and reforming the welfare system. Since assuming the role of mayor last year, Khan has already effected far-reaching change in the capital, he has frozen public transport fares until 2020, launched the 24 hour underground tube service, and introduced a charge for vehicles with the highest diesel emissions. Notably, he appointed the first woman to head the capital’s Metropolitan Police and also the first female Commissioner of London Fire Brigade. Growing up in one of the capital’s economically impoverished and divided areas, Khan encountered racist abuse at a young age in his neighbourhood. He took up boxing, a sport which he is still passionate about. In fact, in his office hangs a portrait of American boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Khan’s position against any form of discrimination has been unequivocal. Last year, he vigorously condemned members of his own party for anti-Semitic abuse. In the brutal world of politics, he too faced discrimination on account of his Muslim heritage with spurious allegations of links with terrorists being levelled against him. Bilateral trade between the UK and Pakistan is currently valued at £2 billion. As the first London mayor to come to Pakistan, his visit represents an important opportunity to build on this figure, particularly in light of his vision to reinforce London’s position as a global hub. Khan’s record as a political leader and the successful son of immigrants can be a base on which to build stronger bilateral ties. Expressing optimism about his upcoming visit to Pakistan, Khan said, “I am passionate about showing that my city will always be open to engaging with partners from around the world … There are so many areas in which London can work with its counterparts in Pakistan.” The writer is the founding editor of Blue Chip magazine. She tweets @MashaalGauhar Published in Daily Times, October 22nd 2017.