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Baroness Warsi helping dispel Muslim stereotypes

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* Pakistan-born British parliamentarian runs five vocational training centres for orphaned girls near Gujjar Khan

GUJJAR KHAN: The rise of a Pakistani-born Briton to become the first Muslim woman named in a British cabinet has given Pakistan something to cheer after weeks of introspection and blame over the failed New York bombing.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative Party’s chairwoman, has been named minister without portfolio by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in his new coalition government.

Born into a modest family, which migrated from Gujjar Khan to Britain in the 1960s, Warsi has been involved in politics since her college days. Newspapers prominently published photos of Warsi standing in front of 10 Downing Street and television channels interviewed her proud relatives and family friends in Gujjar Khan.

Warsi runs five vocational training centres for orphaned girls in villages near Gujjar Khan through a women’s charity. Cameron visited Gujjar Khan with her in 2008. “We feel proud that she is from us,” said Hina Shaukat, a student in a vocational training centre in Bewal village near Gujjar Khan. Eight girls sat around her, busily sewing.

Warsi’s appointment could not come at a better time for Pakistanis distressed by the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, 30, a Pakistan-born US citizen accused by US officials of driving an explosives-laden car into New York’s Times Square on May 1.

Shahzad’s case is not the first linking militants in the West to Pakistan. British authorities have said most of the al Qaeda plots against Britain are rooted in Pakistan. Three of the four militants who carried out suicide bombings on London’s transport network in 2005, killing 52 people, were also of Pakistani origin.

“There is an urgent need to find out why terrorists of all sorts in every nook and corner of the world are either Pakistanis or of Pakistani origin,” the liberal Daily Times wrote. Pakistan has been a breeding ground for militancy since the late 1970s, when it supported the US backed fight against the Soviet invasion.

Its lawless ethnic Pashtun tribal belt on the Afghan border has become the global hub of militancy after thousands of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters fled the US-led war in Afghanistan.

Warsi’s appointment has come as a national morale booster. “At a time when there is an impression all over the world that all terrorism emanates from Pakistan, Sayeeda Warsi’s appointment is like a breath of fresh air,” said Warsi’s cousin, Nusrat Mubashar. “If some people are involved in terrorism, it does not mean that every Pakistani child is a terrorist,” Mubashar said.

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