ISLAMABAD, March 11 (APP): Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria
on Saturday paid tribute to the British Pakistani educationist and former Mayor of Rugby, Dr James Shera, the recipient of Sitara e Pakistan, member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), and Formanite Award, on his selection for conferment of the honour of ‘Freedom of the Borough of Rugby’.
The honour will be conferred upon Dr Shera at a special ceremony to
be held on April 27, 2017 at the Rugby Borough Council, with the High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom and many distinguished personalities to attend the event.
When approached, Nafees Zakaria said it was a matter of great pride
for the country as well as the distinguished Pakistani diaspora in the United Kingdom.
“Our community has enormous contributions to various segments of Great Britain, including political, social, cultural, economic, philanthropy, medical, engineering, science & technology. Dr James Shera is an accomplished British citizen with Pakistani heritage to have earned many distinctions,” he said.
Terming Dr Shera a “role model for Pakistanis”, Zakaria said his own tenure at the High Commission in UK provided him an opportunity to get to know Dr Shera more closely.
He recalled how he felt privileged when at the request of Dr James
Shera he received the Award of Formanite by FC College, Lahore, in 2015.
A letter of acknowledgment for Dr Shera’s services and contributions
was also being sent to the Council of Borough of Rugby, he added.
The honour has been bestowed on Dr Shera in recognition of his eminent services to the people of Rugby, championing equality and diversity at national and international levels over many years; politically, socially
and culturally, and with total commitment, according to a citation by the Office of Mayor of Rugby for an invitation to the ceremony.
Dr Shera attributes this honour to his efforts to build bridges
between the communities. He says his foremost objective always remains service of community without any discrimination.
The honour of Freeman of the Borough of Rugby is conferred in line with the Honorary Freedom of Boroughs Act 1885 (an Act of Parliament of the UK) that gave the councils of municipal boroughs in England and Wales the power to award the title of honorary freeman to “persons of distinction and any person who have rendered eminent services to the borough”.
Renowned scholar and former ambassador to the UK and Ireland Dr Akbar S Ahmed, who is currently on Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic studies at the American University, Washington DC, has written a letter to the Lord Mayor of Rugby to commend services of Dr Shera for interfaith harmony.
He writes,”Dr Shera is one of the great champions of interfaith. I
have always found Dr Shera’s commitment, sincerity, and affection for Pakistan to be second to none.
Throughout his distinguished career, he has been true ambassador
between the West and the Muslim community, representing the finest of his beloved Pakistan and beloved Christian faith. Dr Shera’s contribution to interfaith harmony in the UK has been remarkable, Ahmed further added.
Kamran Haider Rizvi, human rights activist and Adviser on Human Rights to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and founder of Human Rights
Ministry and Pakistan Association for Peaceful and Tolerant Culture, has also paid rich tribute to Dr James Shera.
Rizvi said he always looked upon Dr Shera as a role model, who had
been rendering services to the community irrespective of race and religion.
He said in today’s world, where there was a greater need for fostering understanding between people of different faiths and tolerance was required more than ever, Dr Shera had been serving as a bridge.
Dr Shera’s belief in respect for humanity and his motto to serve everyone without discrimination were the qualities that “we need to instil among our children,” Rizvi added.
Lord Bishop of Coventry Dr Christopher Cocksworth, in his letter to
Lord Mayor of Rugby, has recognized Dr Shera as a great gift to Pakistan and the UK, as someone who has given so much to his country.
Dr Shera, who has won various awards for outstanding services in the fields of politics, education, health and taxation, is being highly praised on receiving this honour.
Dr Shera was elected Mayor of Rugby in 1988, the first ever Pakistani
to become a mayor.
He had served as governor on the boards of two British universities,
the Coventry University and Newman University Birmingham, and had been governor of Warwickshire college, which is a consortium of five colleges, for seven years. He also served as Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Board, Rugby Borough Council, from 2010 to 2014.
In recognition of his services particularly his campaigns as Chair of Fellows of Warwickshire College, a road has been named in Rugby as James Shera Way making him the only living person and first Pakistani to enjoy this honour.
He was conferred with an honorary doctorate of Business and Administration by the University of Bedfordshire in 2010. He served
as leader of Labour Group since 2005 2014.
In 2007, Dr Shera was honoured with an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen, for services in Health and Education sectors.
He is also the only overseas Pakistani to have received the highest accolade in 1992 by the President at the time, Sitara e Pakistan ( the
Star of Pakistan). This was awarded for his services to Interfaith Relations.
In 2014, Dr Shera made a record by being elected as a councillor for
the 10th consecutive term, from Benn Ward of Rugby, a ward from where he has been continuously contesting elections and elected since 1981.
In 2015, he was bestowed with Distinguished Formanite Award by the
FC College Lahore.
Dr Shera has a wide range of honours on his credit to make Pakistanis
in Britain proud of their heritage. He says he is proud of being a
Pakistani and a British and cherishes serving the community irrespective
of ethnicity and religion.