Dr. Ashraf Choudhary made history in becoming the first-ever elected MP of Pakistani origin to the New Zealand Parliament. He again, made history by becoming the first New Zealand Member of Parliament to swear allegiance on the Holy Quran. Dr. Ashraf Choudhary took Muslim oath in the face of criticism that he was breaking a centuries old Christian tradition. He had to bring his own Quran on which to take oath and donated his Quran to parliamentary officials, who did not have one.
Dr. Ashraf Choudhary was born to a small-holder farming family in Punjab province before migrating to New Zealand in 1976. A graduate of Agriculture University, Faisalabad, he completed his Masters studies in the United Kingdom and migrated to New Zealand. After obtaining his doctorate degree at Massey University in New Zealand, he continued his research and lecturing job in Massey University for the next 26 years before joining Parliament.
Dr. Choudhary was honoured with Queens Service Order (QSO) in 1998 by the New Zealand Queen for his distinguished contribution to conservation agriculture and community service. Because of his integrity and standing in the community he has also been made Justice of Peace (JP) for New Zealand many years ago.
Dr Choudhary has specialised in agricultural engineering and his research and development into 'zero tillage' -- ways of planting crops without ploughing, is world-renowned. He is an international authority on conservation tillage technology. The technology he has helped develop is being used around the world including Pakistan.
It's a long journey from the foothills of Kashmir in northern Punjab, his village 'Jajy' near Sialkot, to the beautiful rolling lands in New Zealand. And it's even further from life as a peasant to a politician. But these are both journeys Dr. Ashraf Choudhary has made. The enthusiasm, courage, and determination, has rewarded him appropriately. Despite his living in New Zealand for most of his life, Dr. Ashraf Choudhary has never forgotten his old country, and his siblings back home.
Like many Pakistani people of ‘colonial generation” his father never had the opportunity to go to school, and instead worked his small holding as the family had done for generations. But he was adamant his son wouldn't suffer the same misfortune he had. With nine children, the peasant farmer couldn't afford to send all his children to school so it was Ashraf, the eldest son, who got the opportunity to carry the family's future hopes.
Dr. Choudhary remembers the 13km round trip he used to make on foot to his High school in Sialkot. He remembers all the sacrifices that his parents and his siblings had made so that he could continue with his education. He remembers as to how his family managed to save enough to send him to Faisalabad and later to the UK.
Dr Choudhary regularly visits Pakistan to help government agricultural research & development and educational institutions. Over the years he has helped many Pakistani university students to study in New Zealand through New Zealand Overseas Development Assistance scholarships and private funding. He has helped establish Pakistani High Commission in Wellington and also facilitated large number of Higher Education Commission funded Pakistani PhD students now arriving in New Zealand Universities.
Dr Choudhary is very proud of his contribution to farming, education, science and research, the environment and conservation and hopes he doesn't end up just being a spokesman for minority ethnic groups. In Parliament, Dr Choudhary is Deputy Chair of the Primary Production Select Committee and Member of the Science and Education Select Committee.
Dr. Ashraf Choudhary is married to Samina, and has three children, Anwar, Mehreen and Atif.