Tell us about your foray into politics. How did it all begin for you? I left for the United Kingdom in 1976 and I started working in a corner shop. My brother at that time had a shop in partnership with another person. So I began working there. But that wasn’t very successful as work like that doesn’t feed your family. So I started setting up stalls over there on weekdays and especially on weekends like Saturday and Sunday, similar to the kind of Friday Market stalls we have here. For six months, I continued doing that. But that too was not very successful. So I went back into working at the grocery store. And then, Masha Allah, things started going well and I became a successful businessman as we started a wholesale business that had a cash and carry concept. Before I knew it, I was a wholesaler distributing grocery items, hardware, etc. So Masha Allah, I was very lucky in being successful in that business. In 1979, when Bhutto was sentenced to death, there was a huge sympathy for him in Pakistan. So we launched a campaign titled, Save Bhutto campaign. During that time, I started holding meetings with elected representatives of all the political parties as well as with influential people, in order to put the pressure with petitions, letters to the embassies, letters to the president of that time, General Ziaul Haq to have mercy on his life. That gave me the opportunity to communicate and become friends with politicians. Because being in business only, I couldn’t befriend people from politics. That made me talk to the politicians and the ones who were very supportive. Scotland at that time, was dominated by the Labour Party. Most of the seats of the parliament were the Labour. So during the elections, the people who supported us were from the Labour Party. And also, since I also came from a humble background of a middle class and a working class family, it was natural for me to join the Labour Party as its motto was campaigning for social justice. So when I joined the party, I couldn’t even imagine that I would contest the election or become the councillor. Labour Party is the kind of party that always needs funds, so during the time of elections, I used to fund them. So when I joined them and began supporting them, there came a time when I had to make a decision whether I wanted to be a businessman or a politician. I became heavily involved in two main causes – one was the Kashmir issue and the second was the Palestine one. I was very emotionally committed to these causes. So I went to Palestine and saw the misery there. I saw the children over there fighting tanks with stones. So I thought to myself that the only way I can help these causes is if I have influence in politics. So I thought about it over and over and then decided to enter politics. I became Glasgow City Councillor in 1992. In 1995, I was re-elected for the same position. So during the 1997 election, I decided to try for Member of Parliament. At that time in Britain, nobody had ever become member of the House of Lords or an MP at the same time. So I thought, let me be the one to open this door. It was a huge challenge, rather a mountain to climb. Everyone said to me that it’s an impossible task and there was no chance that I’ll be selected. They told me that even if I’m selected the white people will not vote for a person of colour or a Pakistani or a Muslim. So there seemed to be a lot of anti-Muslim vibes. So it was a huge battle to be selected. At first, they defeated me with one vote. I took the Labour Party on. I told them I’ll go to court with this as the ballot is rigged. So Masha Allah, I won the battle. The selection in which they had claimed that I was defeated by one vote, or equal for that matter, as my opponent won 236 votes and I 235. When the second ballot happened, we both scored 245 votes each. So I said, how can you declare another candidate winner? Plus, they disqualified 52 of my votes. I told them not to declare the result, rather go with three options. One, go for a re-ballot and second, to take the votes to some signature expert (as they had claimed that the signatures weren’t matching in most of the votes). I told them if the signature expert also claimed that the signs don’t match, I’ll accept the result. The third option was to take scrutineers on board to check the signatures if they matched or not. There was a lady present there who kept rejecting all my votes. So I told them, that according to the universal rule, if there are six judges in a court, out of whom, four declare somebody a convict, then we need to go by their judgement. So five people have agreed on the votes to be authentic and one person hasn’t, so how come you’re going with her judgement only? The entire media was present there and there must be around 100 channels as I was going to be the first Muslim MP. So the result was announced. I refused to accept the results. I said the ballot is rigged and that I’ll do everything in my power to seek justice. The media asked me to what extent I’ll go and I said, I’ll do anything and everything. They asked me if I didn’t get justice from my party, what will I do? I said, I’ll go to the court of law. I’ve fought a lot in my life. An ordinary person can’t take on the entire party like that. I gave them the aforementioned three options again and demanded an investigation. I also told them that if the Labour Party carried out the investigation, I won’t accept it. I requested for a third party. The neutral party announced the result declaring it rigged. So after a recount, I won by 82 votes. It was an honour for me that I took oath from the holy Quran. I struggled for the rights of Palestinians and Kashmiris that way. Side by side, I realised I owed something to my country as well. So in 2000, I formed the Sarwar Foundation. Masha Allah, we’re running two hospitals under that, where we have treated almost two million patients. We set up filtration plants as well. We run Hunar Kada as well in which a thousand girls are getting training from. There are medical camps and schools. My charity would’ve suffered had my wife not taken over it and so now, it’s performing much better. ‘Only those nations prosper, whose women are standing equal to men’You are the current governor of Punjab. How fulfilling, rewarding yet challenging is it for you to be at the helm of affairs of an entire province?Only that person doesn’t have any enemies, who doesn’t do anything in life. This is a hard reality which we have to accept. The nations that don’t accept their weaknesses, can never prosper. If I come to the Governor’s House every day at 10am or 11am, have two lunches and then leave, then this is the best job you can have. When I go to the US to meet the senators and the congress people, I don’t go there for myself. I go there to discuss the plight of the Kashmiris and the pressing issues of Pakistan. We convince them and they do listen. When I send over my CV and it just says former Member of Parliament, UK, they give me preference and time for a meeting. On a short notice, I get to meet their congress people and brief them about Kashmir. I remember meeting Chuck Schumer in this regard too. If I go to the UK, to seek GSP Plus status, people back home say, it’s not the governor’s job to be doing that. What they don’t know is that if Pakistan couldn’t acquire the GSP Plus status, how could we have benefited from billions of dollars every year. In 2013-14, this was the biggest challenge and Allah was so kind on me. Even I thought it was impossible since there was so much opposition. I worked hard, travelling on my own expense, waking up each morning over there and working until late at night. But I was still met with heavy criticism at home, rather than being appreciated. I’m proud to say that I’m not a greedy person. Whatever I have earned until now, I’ve spent on my political career or my charity. Whenever I sleep at night, I ask myself what I did the whole day. Did I do something for the poor? Did I do something for the law? Did I do something to make the citizens happy? Did I do something for education? Did I provide clean water to people? So I conduct my accountability myself. What have some of the key learnings been during your governorship and even before that?You learn something new every day. What I’ve seen is that in individual capacity, we’re a very successful nation. I know so many people who went abroad penniless but became billionaires there. They started from zero and became so rich. But collectively, as a nation, we haven’t performed that well. We need to form a strategy in that regard, how we need to take the country forward. There are great challenges. The biggest thing we need to focus on is how to strengthen our education. Hospitals need to be made and job opportunities should be there for everyone. If corruption is rooted out, then sky’s the limit for Pakistan. You have accomplished great things in 67 years of your life for which you have been lauded and recognised worldwide. What according to you has been your biggest achievement?When I was in Britain, there was a shipyard there which was quite old and all the world’s ships used to be made there. That shipyard was about to face a shutdown. I launched a very big campaign against this decision and gathered 100,000 signatures from people in support of it and then we handed it over to the PM. Everyone said to me I was fighting a lost battle. But I believe that if the cause is right, I need to fight for it. The rest is up to Allah. GSP Plus was my second biggest achievement. And then making holy Quran with translation compulsory in institutions is also one of my achievements. What advice would you give to an 18-year-old self?I would just say that education is very important in your success. I didn’t pay as much attention to my studies as I should’ve. I would advise that reading books is very important. Knowledge is power. Spending time with elders also helps in gaining knowledge.Do you think Pakistan can be termed a safe and secure country for women from the time you took over as the governor until now?This is a very important question. Only those nations prosper, whose women are standing equal to men. There’s a lot happening for women’s rights in Pakistan. Women are conducting and representing themselves really well here and are struggling for their rights too. But I think more needs to happen as acid throwing incidents are still happening. Some are reported, some go unreported. This has stopped happening completely in Bangladesh, as they have declared zero pardoning for the attacker. The punishment is severe over there. Delay of justice is justice denied. Punishment for any crime against a woman should be intense. I want to see more women in politics too.What is your vision for Pakistan and what does it mean to be Pakistani for you?One thing I advise all overseas Pakistanis is to take pride from where they come from. Even when I was a politician in the UK, I used to tell everyone about my Pakistani roots. My vision is similar to that of Jinnah and Allama Iqbal about Pakistan. I wish there comes a time, when every citizen has access to clean drinking water. Fifty percent of people are lying in hospitals after drinking unclean water. Also, I want justice for everybody. I want every single child to go to school. Their education should be our priority and also, I want employment for all.We at Daily Times consider you one of our national heroes. Who are some of yours?Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Muhammad Iqbal and Imran Khan are some of my national heroes.AchievementsINTERNATONAL ICONChaudhry Mohammad Sarwar has not just served in Pakistan as a politician but is a former British politician as well. From 1997 to 2010, Sarwar was a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, representing a constituency in Glasgow, Scotland.HELM OF AFFAIRSHe currently serves as the 33rd Governor of Punjab and has been in office since September 2018.