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Sunday, April 21, 2024  
09 Shawwal 1445  

Profile: Anthony Naveed, the third minority deputy speaker in Pakistan’s history

Naveed says he never even dreamt of becoming a speaker
File photo
File photo

Sindh Assembly’s newly-elected deputy speaker Anthony Naveed never even dreamt or aspired to hold the position, but now he has become the third minority member in the country to oversee the proceedings of a legislature.

His ascent is remarkable given the curtailing religious freedom in the country and probably it was the political environment that led many people to wrongly believe that he was the first non-Muslim to become a deputy speaker in Pakistan.

Between 1993 and 1996. Bashir Masih and Arjun Das Bugti served as deputy speakers in the Balochistan Assembly.

Bugti eventually migrated to India.

Naveed, who is now 53, was born to a modest Catholic family in Karachi’s Akhtar Colony. His father held a private job, but is described by naveed as a man who laboured to make ends meet for his family. He grew up with a brother and two sisters.

After matriculating from St Patrick’s School, Naveed gained an engineering diploma in garment technology from the Pakistan Swedish Institute of Technology.

He showed an interest in community activities early and went on to serve as a vice-president of Christian Boys Association and also worked with Pakistan Christian Congress.

His first foray into politics came in 2005, when the Pakistan Peoples Party gave him a ticket in Karachi’s local body election. He contested as a vice-chairman from his native Akhtar Colony, in an alliance that pitched a Jamat-e-Islami candidate as chairman.

Naveed told the BBC that his victory in that election was the experiment in bringing a member of the Christian community into Pakistan’s mainstream politics.

He went on to become a special assistant to Sindh’s chief minister in 2016, and began to set his sights on becoming a legislator.

Although he also eyed a Senate spot, the party chose him as a reserved seat candidate in Sindh Assembly, where he served from 2018 to 2023. When elected, he was the lone Christian member in the house.

Naveed says he ran a campaign under National Lobbying Delegation for Minority Rights in Pakistan to get rights enshrined in the constitution to members of minority groups.

He told a recent interview that he had ‘not even dreamt’ of becoming a deputy speaker as the post left very little space for him to act as a legislator.

However, he is still hopeful that he can get work done in terms of quotas for minorities in education and employment as well as Christian personal law.

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