Sajjad Karim

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Sajjad Haider Karim
MEP S.QA. LLD (cHons)
Karim Sajjad 2014-02-03 3.jpg
Member of the European Parliament
for North West England
Assumed office
13 June 2004
Personal details
Born (1970-07-11) 11 July 1970 (age 45)
Blackburn, Lancashire, UK
Political party Conservative
Other political
Alma mater

Sajjad Haider Karim (nicknamed "Saj"; born Blackburn, 11 July 1970) is British politician, who has been the first Pakistani and second Muslim Member of the European Parliament.[1][2][3] He was re-elected in June 2009, and again in 2014.[4] representing North West England.[5]He was elected in 2004 for the Liberal Democrats, but joined the Conservative Party on 26 November 2007.

In his first term Karim served on the International Trade Committee, Committee of Judicial Affairs and Human Rights Committees and was a Member of the European Parliament's "Committee of Investigation into alleged CIA extraordinary renditions and secret prisons" after having been the first European Parliamentarian to officially raise the matter. He was the European Legal Affairs Spokesperson and served as a Conservative whip. He was the European Parliamentary rapporteur for the EU-India Free Trade Agreement.

In 2005, he established the European Parliament Friends of Pakistan Group, which he continues to chair to present day. He is also a member of the Friends of India and Friends of Bangladesh Groups.

He is the Vice-President of the European Parliament's Equality and Diversity Intergroup and Co-Chair of the European Muslim Forum. He has focused on the rise of intolerance in Europe in recent years, notably the rise of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and growing support for the far-right political parties.[6]

Early life[edit]

Karim, a British Pakistani, was born in Blackburn, Lancashire on 11 July 1970.[7]

Karim attended Walter Street County primary school Brierfield and thereafter Mansfield High School, Brierfield. He completed his A levels at Nelson and Colne College before studying Law at University. He attended the College of Law in Chester studying Law. He qualified as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1997 and rose to becoming an equity partner very quickly specialising in cases of serious fraud defence work.

Karim’s earliest political activity started with leafleting at the age of seven for the then Conservative parliamentary candidate for Pendle. He later joined the Liberal Democrats in 1989. Sajjad was elected a member of Pendle Borough Council in 1994 and served until 2002 representing Brierfield ward.[citation needed]

Member of the European Parliament[edit]

Karim, who is the first British Muslim elected to the European Parliament, was elected to represent the North West England in 2004 as a Liberal Democrat. On 26 November 2007 he re-joined the Conservative Party and was re-elected to the European Parliament in June 2009. In May 2014 he was re-elected to serve a third term.

Karim is interested in human rights issues including child labour and the civil liberties of EU citizens in the War on Terror. He led the successful European Union contribution to the campaign for the commutation of the death penalty of British man, Mirza Tahir Hussain, who had spent half of his life on death row in Pakistan, for a crime he maintains he did not commit.

Sajjad has spoken out on a number of key human rights issues and in particular, campaigns tirelessly for self-determination for Kashmir. He has hosted a number of conferences in the European Parliament on the issue.[8] In 2013 he brought together Syrian opposition groups to try encourage a co-hesive strategy to the current regime. He has also been active on the issue of democracy in Egypt and civil rights in Turkey.

On 26 November 2008, whilst visiting India as part of a European Parliament Committee on International Trade delegation (ahead of an EU-India summit), he was caught up in the Mumbai attacks in the lobby of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel.[9] Speaking to the Associated Press while holed up in the hotel's restaurant shortly after the terrorists gained control of the hotel, Karim said "I was in the main lobby and there was all of a sudden a lot of firing outside...all of a sudden another gunmen appeared in front of us, carrying machine gun-type weapons. And he just started firing at us ... I just turned and ran in the opposite direction." [10]

In December 2009, Karim was appointed as the Legal Affairs Spokesperson for the Conservative Group in the European Parliament. He was reappointed to this front bench position in June 2014 following the European Elections in May. As well as serving as a full member of the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), Sajjad is and in was previously a substitute member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee and the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. He also currently Chairs the South Asia Monitoring Group and is a member of the delegations with the Mashreq countries and the Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean.[11]

Karim has championed the vital role played by the EU in developing and facilitating International trade between the EU and the wider world and has been a key player in the development of the EU-India Free Trade Agreement within the European Parliament.[12] Karim was the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the free trade agreement with India and has authored two trade-related European Parliament Reports on EU-India Trade Relations and the EU-India Free Trade Agreement.[13]

Both reports maintain the need for human rights to be integral in any trade related agreement that the EU has with another country. Saj’s persistent work to tackle child labour and ensure that it is recognised as an international trade issue, underlines his passion for those causes which interlink trade and human rights.[14]

Karim continues to spend a considerable amount of his time working towards a reduction in EU regulations and red tape on businesses, particularly SMEs. In October 2011 he was appointed as the European Parliament rapporteur on a new report that will look at improving the law-making process across the EU and reduce the legislative burdon.[15]

In July 2011, the English Defence League staged an anti-Islamic protest outside Karim's family home near Burnley, allegedly regarding new EU proposals on the labelling of Halal meat.[verification needed][16]

In February 2012, Karim was one of five MEPs to be appointed to a panel to police the new code of conduct rules that will govern the behaviour of MEPs. He is the only British MEP to serve on this committee. The Advisory Committee provides guidance to MEPs and advises the Parliament’s President on what steps to take in the event of alleged breaches of the code.[17] In February 2014 he was appointed Chairman of the Advisory Committee by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. He was uniquely reappointed by Schulz in July 2014.[18]

After the European elections in 2014 Karim was selected as the European Conservative and Reformist Group Parliament Presidential candidate. The incumbent Martin Schultz retained his position as President with Karim coming second of a total of four candidate. It being widely acknowledged that Karim secured support from MEPs right across the house beyond his own group.

Karim made headline news in December 2012 when he played an instrumental role in securing the return of 6 year-old Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson to UK from Pakistan following abduction by her father. Over several weeks he worked closely with Greater Manchester Police and the Pakistani authorities and Atiya was returned safely to her mother during the Christmas holidays.[19]

In December 2013 eight years work came to fruition when the European Parliament voted to approve a vital concessionary trade status for Pakistan. The preferential trade package for Pakistan's exports to EU countries came into force in January 2014 and is already boosting trade, economic development and will improve democracy and human rights issues. Karim steered the International Trade Committee to approve the beneficial trade tariff.[20] Sajjad was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for the University of Technology and Management in Lahore for his work in securing the GSP+ deal and for services to the British Pakistani community.[21]

In August 2014 Karim was awarded the Sitara-i-qaid-i-Azam, Pakistan's highest national honour to non-Pakistanis, for his services to strengthen Pakistan/UK and Pakistan/EU relations. He was one of only two people to receive the award in 2014. [22] Karim was presented with the award in March 2015 by Pakistan President, Mamnoon Hussain, at a ceremony in Islamabad.

Awards and nominations[edit]

In January 2015, Karim was nominated for the Politician of the Year award at the British Muslim Awards.[23]


External links[edit]