Pakistan confers civil award on senator
Senator Anumat Amat has been awarded the Tamgha-i-Quaid-i-Azam, or Quaid-i-Azam Medal for his exemplary public service, social work and promotion of Pakistan-Thailand relations.
It's a presidential award which Pakistan's president himself confers but the senator could not travel to Pakistan due to travel restrictions imposed by Thailand during the spread of Covid-19.
As a result, Pakistani Ambassador Asim Iftikhar Ahmad presented the award to the senator at a ceremony on April 9 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok. Quaid-i-Azam, or the Great Leader, is the title used by the people of Pakistan for Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the country's founding father.
President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, announced the Pakistan civil awards for 184 Pakistani and foreign nationals in recognition of excellence in various fields and service to Pakistan, on Independence Day, on Aug 14, 2020. The awards were conferred at President House, Islamabad, on March 23, which is Pakistan's National Day.
Mr Anumat was born in Thailand to parents who hailed from what is now Pakistan. He is a Thai national who aims to promote friendship between Thailand and Pakistan. His mother was half Thai and half Pakistani while his father was Pakistani.
"There are two distinct factors that I can use to describe myself," he says. "One is the biological factor. Even though I had Pakistani parents but was born in Thailand, no Thais considered me biologically Thai as I do not look Thai.
"The second factor is patriotism; even though I was born in Thailand, whenever someone says something about Pakistan, I would feel like it is my country. I feel like I have two identities: Thai and Pakistani,'' he says.
He said he believes "politics, social function, and religion function are interrelated because they are all about helping others''. When he was young, he looked up to his parents as his role models as they taught him to look after himself, his family, his neighbours, and society. He also sees himself as a "people person"; he likes to help other people and learn about different issues.
Mr Anumat entered politics a few years ago when he decided to join the Senate. In 2014, he was the only Muslim elected from Songkhla, where Muslims make up about 30% of residents.
"Being the only Muslim from Songkhla meant non-Muslims accepted me and agreed that I could be a good representative and help them with their problems,'' he said.
Mr Anumat is Deputy Secretary-General of the Central Islamic Committee of Thailand and also Vice-Chairman of the Senate's Religious Affairs Committee where he highlights his respect for religious harmony and the heritage of Pakistan.
He said Pakistan is a beautiful place and the hospitality and friendship of Pakistani people second to none. "Pakistan is also the birthplace of Buddhist heritage. That is another factor that draws Thais to pay attention to Pakistan," he said.
"Diplomatically, the two countries have strengthened their relationship. Secondly, they have strengthened relations commercially. I have been hearing about a lot of trade between Pakistan and Thailand. "Receiving this award is unexpected and rewarding. It is the land of my ancestors," he said.