Meet Six Pakistani-Americans Who Won State Elections

By Jay Rover

At least six Pakistani Americans won state legislature elections in Texas, Georgia, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania on November 8. According to the information gathered by Pakistan Week, at least nine Pakistanis ran for state legislatures and the US Congress. Six were elected, two were defeated while Dr. Asif Mahmood, running for US Congress from California’s District 40, is trailing behind his Korean-American Republican opponent Young Kim by several thousand votes.

These elections bring the total number of Pakistani Americans serving in different state legislatures to at least eight. Dr Sadaf Jaffer (D) and Shamma Haider (D) made history last year when they becamme first Muslim and Pakistani women to be elected to the New Jersey state legislature.

There may be many more candidates of Pakistan origin who contested the November 8 elections annd might have won as well, but not much is known because the only way to find candidates of Pakistan origin is to do research. None of the dozens of Pakistani community organizations offer any such resources. Council on American Islamic Relations is one of very few national Muslim organizations that released a list of Muslim candidates, which included Pakistanis as well. But this list does not include at least one Pakistani American candidate who is Christian.

Pakistani community’s political activism in the US is not very old. Saghir (Saggy) Tahir was the first one ever to be elected to a US legislature. Saghir, an engineer by profession who passed away in 2013, was first elected to New Hampshire State Assembly in the 2000 elections. He served four terms in the New Hampshire state assembly.

Here are the names of the successful Pakistani-American candidates who made history on November 8:


State Senator Dr. Saud Anwar (D), District 3

(Photo courtesy CT Senate Democrats Flickr page, CC license)
Dr. Saud Anwer is a no stranger on the Pakistani-American political circuit. He won a second term on November 8 by a 21% margin. Anwar received 18,968, accounting for 60.9% of the vote against his Republican rival Matt Harper’s 12,189 votes (39.1% of the total cast vote).

“I want to thank our community for continuing to placing your faith in me as your state senator,” Dr. Anwar tweeted after receiving a concession call from his opponent, Matt Harper, on November 8.

Dr. Saud Anwar was first elected to the Connecticut Senate in February 2019 to represent the residents of the 3rd State Senate District towns of East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington and South Windsor.

Saud was first elected to public office in 2011 as a member of South Windsor’s Town Council. He has served two terms as South Windsor mayor, once from 2013 to 2015 and once from 2017 to 2019.

Saud is a medical doctor with specializations in treating lung diseases and critical care medicine, occupational and environmental medicine. He currently serves as Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Manchester Memorial and Rockville General Hospitals. Saud was trained in pulmonary and critical care medicine and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from, Yale University.

State Representative Maryam Khan (D), Assembly District 5

(Photo courtesy Maryam Khan’s Connecticut House Democrats page)
The Pakistan-born 33-year-old Maryam Khan retained her Connecticut State Assembly seat from District 5, by 53%, securing 4969 votes (75.2% of the total cast vote). Her closest rival was Republican Charles Jackson who received only 1468, or 22.2% of the vote.

Maryam Khan, a special education teacher by profession, made history in 2022 when she was elected during a special election to represent the 5th District, serving Hartford and Windsor, to become the first Muslim member of the Connecticut House, a historic triumph. During the remainder of the 2022 Session, she will serve as a member on the Aging, Children, and Judiciary Committees.

Khan has a master’s degree in special education from Central Connecticut State University and has taught in the Hartford public schools before starting at Prince Tech in the fall of 2019.

“As Vice President of the Windsor Board of Ed, Maryam fought for access to quality education, funding community infrastructure, and inclusion in decision-making,” says a statement on her official bio page. Her experience opened her eyes to the vast disparities our communities face, inspiring her to lead the fight for change. She is committed and ready to take her advocacy to the next level as your State Representative and bring your voice to the state Capitol.

Maryam, who emigrated to the US from Pakistan as a child in 1994, lives in Windsor, CT, with her husband and three children.

Farooq Mughal, GA State Assembly, District 105

(Photo courtesy Farooq Mughal’s campaign website)
Farooq Mughal defeated Republican candidate Sandy Donatucci in the House District 105 race by capturing 51.72% of the 20,290 votes cast in that race.

Farooq Mughal is one of four Muslim candidates who won for the state legislature. It could end up being the second largest Muslim delegation in the nation, behind only Minnesota, which the Council on American-Islamic Relations projected would have five Muslim state legislators after this election.

“When you look at the American Muslim community in Georgia, we live in the south and we elected four people — one was re-elected and three were elected,” Mughal told on November 9. “That’s huge.”

Mughal is a business leader, public policy expert, mediator, and former chairman of the Gwinnett County Community Outreach Board. He has a lifelong public service record. He is running to bring a record of experience and service to the Georgia House of Representatives.

According to Mughal’s campaign website, he grew up in Gwinnett County inn Atlanta’s suburbs. He is the proud son of immigrant parents who moved to the United States from Pakistan, arriving in Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1995. He went on to attend Mercer University in Macon, graduating in 2000 with his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.

“Farooq’s leadership in the political and public policy arena has been recognized by the White House, Congress, two Georgia Governors, and Georgia state legislators,” says the statement on his campaign site.


Tarik Khan (D) State House District 194 (Philadelphia suburbs, including Venice Island)

(Photo, courtesy Tarik Khan’s campaign website)
One of the most emphatic electoral victories by a Pakistani American in the current election season was staged by Tarik Khan, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, a family nurse practitioner, in Philadelphia’s State House District 194. Tarik secured 21,688 votes, accounting for 91% of the total cast vote, against his opponent Torren Danowski’s 2,144, accounting for just 9% of the vote. He will join State Representative Jason Dawkins (D) who is unopposed for reelection.

“Update: Elected the first Pakistani American to the PA legislature (and the first advanced practice nurse!),” tweeted Tarik on November 9, after his stunning victory.

 Tarik joined politics just last year when he resigned as president of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA), the professional nursing association representing Pennsylvania’s more than 228,000 registered nurses.

“Tarik Khan is a motivated and inspirational nurse and patient advocate. For 13 years, Tarik has served PSNA in various leadership positions, including Chair of the Government Relations Committee and Board Vice President and President,” PSNA CEO Betsy M. Snook said in a statement on June 29, 2021, when Tarik resigned his office.

Tarik was born and raised in Philadelphia where he went to the local public schools and was a graduate of Central High School. His father came to Philadelphia from Pakistan to go to college and build a better life. His mother was raised in northwest Philly by a single mother, who also became a nurse and was the first in her family to go to college.


Salman Bhojani, Texas House District 92 (Fortworth’s suburb)

(Photo courtesy Salaman Bhojani’s campaign website)x
Texas’ Salman Bhojani (D), a Pakistani American corporate lawyer, became the first Muslim and first South Asian ever elected to the state legislature. He received 20,137 votes, accounting for the 58% of the total cast vote against his Republican rival Joe F. Livingston’s 14,597 votes, or 42% of the total cast vote. The district encompasses Fortworth’s suburbs including Bedford, Euless, and Hurst neighborhoods.

“With the early vote counted across HD 92, the results are clear—WE MADE HISTORY! I want to thank everyone who supported our campaign. We could not have done this without you. I’m honored and humbled by the support HD 92 has shown me and am ready to get to work!,” Bhojani tweeted as soon as the news of his historic victory was in.

Born in Pakistan to a large family, Salman’s parents immigrated to the Lone Star State when he was 17 years old. After becoming a naturalized citizen, Salman earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas and became a small business owner—purchasing convenience stores across the DFW Metroplex.

He went on to earn a law degree from Southern Methodist University and a Comparative Law Diploma from Oxford University and eventually founded his own law firm, Bhojani Law PLLC.

In 2018, Salman made national headlines when he was elected to the Euless City Council, becoming the first Muslim American to hold elected office in Euless. He went on to become the Mayor Pro Tem. In March, Salman was elected the Democratic Nominee for House District 92 with over 57% of the vote.

Suleman Lalani, Texas House District 76 (Houston’s suburb)

Dr. Lalani with a supporter, holding his campaign placard. (Photo via Dr. Suleman Lalani’s twitter feed)
Fellow Democrat Suleman Lalani, a doctor who advocates for health care reform, will share the title of Texas’ first Muslim state legislator with Bhojani after winning his own race. Dr. Bhojani also scored a convincing victory. He received 28,240 votes, accounting for 57.2% of the cast vote, against his Republican rival Dan Mathews’ 21,103 votes or 42.8% of the cast vote.

Dr. Lalani took to the Twitter to thank his voters and supporters for his emphatic victory. “… last night was a great victory powered by the diverse communities of Fort Bend,” he said in a statement issued on Twitter.

Dr. Lalani is a long-time resident of Texas. He arrived in the United States in early 1990’s to begin his medical career. He has been in private practice in the Greater Houston area for the last two decades and in Sugar Land for 17 years.

He has been triple board-certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine, and he has also been certified by the American Medical Directors Association. Dr. Lalani is among an elite group of physicians nationwide with this qualification. He is also recognized by the National Register of Who’s Who for Excellence in Geriatric Medicine. He is also an active member of Agha Khan Foundation.

He is married and has three children. In his leisure time, Dr. Lalani enjoys reading, painting, playing racquetball, cycling, and traveling.

Candidates who could not make it:

Aamir Sultan speaking at a community meetup organized by a Pakistani American community organization on the eve of elections on Nov 7. (Pakistan Week photo)

One candidate of Pakistan origin could not win his race for Pennsylvania’s state legislature.

But the big surprise came from State Assembly District 10 in Suffolk County where Aamir Sultan, a youthful Pakistani techie, running on a Republican Party ticket received 21,843 votes. His Democratic rival Steve Stern won the race by securing 25,879 votes.

Sultan’s dramatic vote haul has created a stir in Long Island’s Democratic party cadres. “It’s just a matter of time when this young man will represent us in Albany,” one voter in Sultan’s constituency told Pakistan Week.

Asians are the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. and are projected to become the largest immigrant group by 2055.


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