Mohammad Asghar

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Mohammad Asghar
AM
Mohammad Asghar.jpg
Member of the Welsh Assembly
for South Wales East
Incumbent
Assumed office
3 May 2007
Preceded by Laura Anne Jones
Personal details
Born (1945-09-30) 30 September 1945 (age 69)
Peshawar, North West Frontier Province, British India
(Now in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, Pakistan)
Political party Welsh Conservative Party
Other political
affiliations
Plaid Cymru (until 2009)
Welsh Labour Party (mid 1990s)
Religion Islam

Mohammad Asghar (born 30 September 1945),[1] known as Oscar,[2] is a Welsh politician, who has been a member of the Welsh Conservative Party, the Welsh Labour Party, and Plaid Cymru. He came to prominence after being elected to the Welsh Assembly in 2007 as a member of Plaid Cymru on the list for South Wales East.[3] He is best known for being the first ethnic minority and Muslim member of the Assembly,[4] and being the first AM who was a member of a political party to defect to another party.[5]

Background and career

Born in Peshawar, then in British India, he was the only child to Aslam Khan and Zubaida Aslam. Asghar gained a BA from Peshawar University[1] before moving to Wales to complete a course in accountancy in Newport. Asghar initially joined the Conservative party, remaining a member for some two decades, later joining the Labour party in the 1990s.[6] He joined Plaid Cymru some time after becoming Wales’ first Muslim councillor, representing Victoria ward on Newport City Council.[7] He has stood for Plaid Cymru in general elections. His daughter Natasha Asghar — central to several scandals involving her father's career[8] — also stood as a Plaid Cymru candidate in the 2007 Elections,[9] and also joined the Conservative party at the same time he did so.[10]

On 8 December 2009, Asghar became the first AM to cross the floor, defecting from Plaid Cymru to the Conservative Party. He claimed that he felt "out of tune" with Plaid policies, described himself as a royalist and unionist,[11] and stated that he felt like "a little parrot in a jungle".[12] Plaid Cymru called on Asghar to resign his seat following his defection.[11]

Asghar married his wife, Firdaus, in 1983; they have one daughter.

Expenses scandal and corruption

In November 2010, Asghar was one of nine Conservative AMs accused of wrongly claiming expenses for an overnight hotel stay coinciding with the birthday of fellow Assembly member Nick Ramsay.[13]

Accusations of corruption were also leveled at Asghar due to the abnormal pay arrangements he has had with several of his staff, with two staff members remaining on permanent paid leave until the Welsh assembly was dissolved in 2011. Charges of nepotism have also been associated with his staff arrangements, with his daughter Natasha Asghar — who was explicitly banned from his employ by the Plaid Cymru leadership while he was a member of the party — becoming a paid member of his staff upon his defection to the Conservative party.[14] Asghar has gone on record as stating that MEP Jillian Evans offer to give this same daughter work experience was a significant factor in his decision to defect from the Labour party to Plaid Cymru.[6]

Controversy over 2011 election candidacy

In August 2010, Asghar was selected to stand for the Welsh Conservatives in the 2011 Welsh assembly election.[15] In September 2010 David Fouweather, the Chair of the South-East Wales Area Council of the Welsh Conservatives, called for a full investigation into events that preceded the endorsement of Mohammad Asghar as a regional list candidate.[16] In a letter to the Chair of the Welsh Conservatives, Fouweather wrote:

"There were numerous telephone calls made to myself by a representative of the party chairman’s office in London. These calls made it quite clear to me that Mohammad Asghar had to be re-adopted at all costs because of the embarrassment that it would create for the party."[16]

"I was told that failure to re-adopt Mr Asghar could lead to my possible suspension from the party whilst an investigation was carried out to see if there were any racial motives for him not being adopted. This I found deeply offensive, resulting in a great deal of pressure being put upon me to deliver the desired outcome for the party hierarchy."[16]

Following his call for an investigation into Asghar's selection, Fouweather was asked by the Conservative Party to stand down as Chair of the South-East Wales Area Council.[17]

Newport council election 2011

In December 2011, Asghar emailed fellow Conservatives asking them to support his wife in a vacant Newport City Council seat two days after the incumbent Les Knight had died. The email read:

I am very sad about Coun Les Knight although it seems that things are already moving on in terms of the Allt-yr-yn seat. I would be very grateful if you could consider Firdaus Asghar to stand in the elections from Allt-yr-yn. I am sure you are aware that Firdaus has lived in the ward for more than 20 years and worked closely with Coun Knight on many constituency matters.[18]

One of the Conservative councillors who received the email said:

I was extremely shocked to get this email, which I found in appallingly bad taste. I have known Les and his wife for more than 30 years and am very sad at his death. When I received the email the funeral arrangements hadn’t even been made. Sending an email like this was callous and in extremely poor taste. I can’t imagine what was meant by ‘things are already moving on in terms of the Allt-yr-yn seat.'[18]

Asghar later apologised for the email, and confirmed that his wife would not be standing for election in the forthcoming elections.[19][20]

Mosque election dispute

In 2011, Asghar was involved in a dispute with members of the Jamia Mosque and Al-Noor Mosque, the two largest Sunni mosques in Newport, during which some members accused him of aggressively opposing the introduction of democratic elections for the mosques' leadership.[21] Asghar was subsequently issued with an ex parte court injunction, forbidding him from attending either mosque.[22] In December 2011, members of the two mosques applied to have the injunction extended. The injunction was instead lifted, when a Cardiff County Court judge instructed the two parties to come to a private agreement.[23][21]

References

  1. ^ a b "ASGHAR, Mohammad, "Who's Who 2009"". A & C Black, 2008. Online ed., Oxford: OUP. 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2009. 
  2. ^ "Mohammed Asghar AM". National Assembly for Wales. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Labour given a bloody nose icWales, 4 May 2007
  4. ^ First ethnic minority AM elected BBC News, 4 May 2007
  5. ^ "Plaid Assembly Member joins Welsh Conservatives". Welsh Conservative Party. 8 December 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "Matt Withers: AM has been promiscuous with his political parties". Wales on Sunday. 2009-12-13. 
  7. ^ Gwent politician survives bomb attack, South Wales Argus, 19 October 2007.
  8. ^ "Conservative AM Asghar criticised over researcher job for daughter". Western Mail. 10 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Young Candidates, Plaid Cymru
  10. ^ http://www.conservatives.com/People/Welsh_Assembly_Members/Asghar_Mohammad.aspx
  11. ^ a b Plaid AM defects to Conservatives, BBC News online, 8 December 2009.
  12. ^ "Plaid Cymru AM joins the Conservatives", Walesonline.co.uk, 8 December 2009.
  13. ^ "Tory AMs accused of wasting money on 'boys on tour jolly'". Western Mail. 2010-11-10. 
  14. ^ "Daughter of AM who left Plaid to join the Tories is now on his staff". Western Mail. 2010-01-26. 
  15. ^ "Tories endorse Mohammad Asghar for 2011 regional list". BBC News. 2010-08-28. 
  16. ^ a b c "Conservatives refuse to confirm role of London official in racism storm". Western Mail. 2010-09-17. 
  17. ^ "Councillor sidelined over row". Western Mail. 2010-11-13. 
  18. ^ a b "Tory AM accused of ‘appalling bad taste’ over death". Western Mail. 15 December 2011. 
  19. ^ "Mohammad Asghar sorry for lobbying for wife after councillor's death". BBC News. 15 December 2011. 
  20. ^ "AM apologises for 'callous' election e-mail". South Wales Argus. 15 December 2011. 
  21. ^ a b "Deal after Newport mosque row with AM Mohammad Asghar". BBC News. 22 December 2011. 
  22. ^ "Judge to rule on mosque ban for Tory Muslim AM Mohammad Asghar". Western Mail. 22 December 2011. 
  23. ^ "Gwent AM in mosque injunction row". South Wales Argus. 23 December 2011. 

External links

Offices held

National Assembly for Wales
Preceded by
Laura Anne Jones
Assembly Member for South Wales East
2007–present
Incumbent