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From immigrant to Lord Mayor: Mohammed Abbasi's journey
HE came to Britain from Pakistan 50 years ago as an economic migrant.
Now, half a century later, Mohammed Abbasi holds Oxford’s top civic post after becoming its first non-white Lord Mayor.
Labour’s Mr Abbasi, 70, will be the city’s new civic leader for two months after he stepped up to the role from his deputy role.
The unexpected promotion comes after Lib Dem councillor Alan Armitage stood down over “inappropriate” comments made to a schoolgirl last year.
Mr Abbasi, a father-of-eight and grand-father of “too many to count” said: “It will be an honour to serve.
“I will have lived in Oxford for 50 years on July 14, that is the anniversary.
“When I came to England I went all over but I never found anywhere like Oxford. “I love living here.”
Mr Abbasi came to the UK from Pakistan in 1963 as an economic migrant and worked as an engineer for GPO Telephones.
Last year, he became the first non-white councillor to take on a civic role in the city, when he became deputy to Mr Armitage.
He said: “This is the highest position in the city, as first citizen.
“I wasn’t expecting this to happen so quickly.”
The next official Lord Mayor, Dee Sinclair, will take office in May but a figurehead for the council was needed to bridge the gap.
Mr Abbasi is due to become Lord Mayor in 2014 after serving a year as sheriff, in line with council convention.
But with his appointment, ratified at a vote on Wednesday, he will get a taste of life in the high office a year early.
Green councillor Elise Benjamin, Lord Mayor for 2011/12, will serve as Mr Abbasi’s deputy until May. Lib Dem Tony Brett is then expected to take on the role.
Ms Benjamin, 47, said: “I’m honoured that I have been picked to do it, although it’s not in the best of circumstances.
“I wasn’t that surprised when I was asked. I could do it in my sleep by now.”