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|Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Labour party list
2002 – 2011
15 February 1949 |
Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan
|Alma mater||University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) Pakistan
Massey University, New Zealand
|Committees||Primary Production Committee|
Dr Ashraf Choudhary, QSO, (born 15 February 1949) is a Pakistani-New Zealand scientist in agricultural engineering and formerly a member of the Parliament in New Zealand. He is a member of the Labour Party, and was New Zealand's first MP from South Asia and Pakistan.
Choudhary was born in the Pakistani half of the Punjab region in village Jajay. He comes from a family of agriculture. He attended high school in the town of Sialkot, and then gained a degree in agricultural engineering from University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) in Faisalabad. He continued his studies abroad, gaining a master's degree in agricultural engineering at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England and a PhD in agricultural engineering at Massey University, New Zealand. By profession, Choudhary was originally an environmental scientist and taught at the Massey University of New Zealand before his induction into Parliament. He has published a large number of scientific papers in his field, and is considered to be an international authority on conservation tillage. His work has a particular focus on agricultural techniques in developing countries. Choudhary has three children.
Before entering Parliament, Choudhary had worked with a number of community organizations, including such groups as the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils and FIANZ – the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (of which he was president in 1984–85). In his capacity as president of FIANZ he oversaw the first annual halal meat contract with the New Zealand Meat Producers Board in June 1984, with the aid of Mazhar Krasniqi, Hajji Abdul Rahim Rasheed and Dr. Mohammad Hanif Quazi.
He was awarded a QSO for his community work in 2001.
|New Zealand Parliament|
Having been a supporter of the Labour Party for some time, Choudhary was elected to Parliament as a Labour Party list MP in the 2002 elections. He was sworn in on the Qur'an, something which Winston Peters (leader of the New Zealand First party) criticised as a breach of proper procedure. The rules, however, contained no prohibition against it, allowing the taker of the oath to specify any religious text they wished (or, alternatively, use none at all). Because Parliamentary officials did not have a copy of the Qur'an, they obtained a copy from the FIANZ office, which was then donated to the Parliamentary Library for use in the future.
Since entering Parliament, Choudhary has served on the Primary Production, Local Government and Environment, and Education and Science select committees. He also came to public attention in 2003, when he abstained in a vote to legalise prostitution. The Muslim community were upset by his decision to abstain from voting since prostitution is seen as a violation of their faith.
Choudhary once again came to the attention of the Muslim community in December 2004, when he announced his intention to vote in favour of the deeply controversial Civil Union legislation. Choudhary remarked that "if the law allows one minority group in our society to be discriminated against then all minorities are vulnerable".
In July 2005 Choudhary came to the public's attention again when he refused to condemn outright the practice of stoning people for homosexual and extramarital sexual behaviour. In TV3's 60 Minutes show on 4 July 2005, Dr. Choudhary was asked: "Are you saying the Qur'an is wrong to recommend that gays in certain circumstances be stoned to death?" He replied: " No, no. Certainly what the Qur'an says is correct." He then qualified his statement, "In those societies, not here in New Zealand".
On 29 September 2011, Choudhary delivered his valedictory speech in Parliament and would retire from politics after the 2011 general election. Since retiring Choudhary has been active in the Pakistani and Indian community circles of Auckland encouraging youth political involvement and supporting blood donor drives.