Biden administration appoints another Pakistani-American on key position

Dr. Asif Mahmood, a Pakistani-American, is appointed by the Biden administration as Commissioner USCIRF. — Facebook/@asif4ca/File

The Biden administration has recently appointed Dr. Asif Mahmood, a Pakistani-American, to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), serving as a Commissioner.

Nominated by US House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Dr. Mahmood has been entrusted with this significant role, following in the footsteps of Khizr Khan, a fellow Pakistani-American who served on the commission from August 2021 to May 2022.

The USCIRF noted in their announcement that Dr. Mahmood is a dedicated physician, advocate for human rights, bridge-builder across racial and religious communities, and generous benefactor. His efforts to champion human rights causes, particularly related to South Asia, have been notable. Mahmood’s political engagement includes serving as a Delegate at the Democratic National Convention from 2008 to 2016 and participating in presidential campaigns. Additionally, he leads the Organisation for Social Media Safety and sits on the board of Hope the Mission, among the largest organizations for the homeless in California.

The USCIRF, an independent and bipartisan U.S. federal body, sets policy guidelines and functions as a vigilant monitor of global religious freedom.

The organization’s website states that “USCIRF tracks the international pursuit of freedom of religion or belief, makes recommendations to the U.S. President, Secretary of State, and Congress, and follows up on the enactment of these proposals.”

The commission, which is more prominently recognized for its annual report on religious freedom violations around the world, alerts nations to potential policy adjustments in response to significant rights violations. The current chairperson of the commission is Abraham Cooper, with Frederick A. Davie as Vice Chair, among other notable commissioners.

The Journey of Dr. Asif Mahmood

Dr. Mahmood’s story of success began in a modest village in Kharian, Punjab. He pursued his medical studies in Karachi at Sindh Medical College and thereafter relocated to Pasadena, California, in 1999. He is now an esteemed pulmonologist and internist, who played an instrumental role during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Mahmood is a proponent of accessible healthcare and offers his services to those without insurance. He is also actively involved with UNICEF and other charitable organizations.

Pursuit of Political Ambition

Dr. Mahmood, having stepped into the political arena over the last decade, became the first Pakistani-American to run for Congress during the mid-term elections, though the seat was won by Young Kim. Notable Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, endorsed his bid, owing to his previous support for Harris over Joe Biden during the primary elections.

He has also won the support of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hosted a historic campaign event for him. His political aspirations have garnered endorsements from prominent figures like Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Cory Booker, and many others.

When he previously ran for Insurance Commissioner of California, although not successful, he received an unprecedented amount of support for a Muslim-American candidate.

Pakistan’s Presence in Mahmood’s Career

Mahmood maintains strong connections with leading political parties in Pakistan, visiting Pakistan frequently, and meeting with key figures like Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Imran Khan, among others.

Notably, Mahmood played a significant role in pushing for a historic Congressional hearing on Kashmir following India’s controversial actions regarding the region’s status. Mahmood boldly testified before Congress advocating for the rights of the Kashmiris.

His appointment to the USCIRF is expected to be closely watched by stakeholders in New Delhi, especially considering his advocacy on Kashmir.

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