An Oxford student who survived a Taliban death squad massacre in his school in Pakistan in 2014 has resigned as President of the exclusive Oxford Union last night, claiming he was the victim of ‘threats and blackmail’.
Ahmad Nawaz, 21, who became the second Pakistani to be President of the exclusive debating society when he took up the role in June, said he felt as a non-British Muslim he had faced discrimination.
He was ousted after his opponents dismissed his reasons for missing too many meetings.
He said that he had been ill but fellow students voted to remove him by 251 votes to 164.
Mr Nawaz had said in a recent Facebook post that the events of the past few weeks had put him in a ‘state that I’ve not felt for a while’ and that he has struggled with racism in the society.
‘I have been made to realise that as a non-British Muslim person, I have to do a lot more than anyone else to prove that I belong here.’
‘I usually only post positive and good things but my mental health has just been so f****d up lately. I haven’t slept properly in weeks and my chest contracts every time my phone notifications go off.’
Ahmad Nawaz (centre) was forced to resign from the prestigious Oxford Union on Thursday night. The secret ballot was held in the historic chamber as Mr Nawaz presided over the traditional Thursday night debate, ‘This House Believes Woke Culture Has Gone Too Far’
Ahmad Nawaz was 14 when Taliban terrorists shot him in the arm and killed his brother in a 2014 school massacre which took nearly 150 lives. He survived the ordeal while pretending to be dead before he was taken to Birmingham for surgery after months in a Peshawar hospital
Students waited in the bar of the Union buildings to vote on whether to keep Mr Nawaz as President. Mr Nawaz lost the vote by 251 votes to 164
Ahmad Nawaz (speaking) was elected to the Union Presidency earlier this year. He was forced to resign last night after students voted to remove him
Mr Nawaz was awarded an honorary doctorate by Coventry University in March. He won his place at Oxford after studying on a scholarship at King Edward’s School in Edgbaston
The Oxford Union, which describes itself as the world’s ‘foremost debating society’ was founded in 1823 to protect freedom of speech.
The Union is a famous breeding ground for politicians and has an infamous reputation for in-fighting.
Its most famous debate is the 1933 King and Country debate, in which students voted not to fight ‘under any circumstances’. Winston Churchill would later write the vote affected decisions made by Nazi Germany.
1933 – Michael Foot: Former Labour leader
1954 – Michael Heseltine: Former Deputy PM
1961 – Paul Foot: Private Eye editor
1969 – Gyles Brandreth: Broadcaster and former politician
1977 – Benazir Bhutto: First female PM of Pakistan
1980 – Michael Crick: Political journalist
1981 – William Hague: Former Tory leader
1988 – Michael Gove: Tory Minister
1986 – Boris Johnson: UK Prime Minister
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) was President of the Oxford Union in 1986.
Mr Nawaz described his experience in the debating society as: ‘nothing but a trauma triggering fest of political targeting, consistent threats, rumours and blackmail.’
‘Despite spending most of my summer working hard putting together the best possible term card with speakers and debates – none of that seem to matter in the face all the nasty political tactics that some chose to enact here – cajoling and poisoning the minds of well intentioned groups and individuals in order to weaponise their true and genuine concern.’
But other students told student newspaper Cherwell that Nawaz was arrogant and had not done enough work.
‘There have been countless times when he has failed to turn up to some of the more manual jobs such as moving benches or term cards,’ Matthew Dick, a senior member of the Union, said.
Another senior member, Disha Hegde, accused Mr Nawaz of failing to do his job.
‘He has, however, shown up to every free debate dinner and drinks reception – which are all financed from the members’ money.’
One student, speaking in the chamber, said they no longer felt ‘safe’ working on his committee.
‘Following this speech, I do not feel safe enough to continue working on this committee if the president does not resign.’
But Mr Nawaz’s Chief of Staff, Israr Khan, said the vote was a ‘political ploy to corner the president’ and that he should not ‘lose to dirty politics’.
Another student reportedly yelled: ‘Stop the steal!’
Mr Nawaz lost the secret ballot, which was held before the traditional Thursday debate, by 251 votes to 164.
He used his final remarks to say he was grateful for the opportunity to have been President.
‘At every point, I have given it my best. I am eternally grateful to have had this opportunity as President.’
The result was announced after the main debate of the evening, ‘This House Believes Woke Culture Has Gone Too Far’.
President-elect Charlie Mackintosh, 20, will replace Nawaz as Acting President.
Mr Nawaz, who studies Philosophy and Theology at Lady Margaret Hall, survived a massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar, North-West Pakistan, when he was 14.
A Taliban death squad had burst into a school assembly and fired at the schoolchildren.
He was shot in the shoulder and left for dead but crawled to hide in a small wooden shelter which was then set alight.
Mr Nawaz’s younger brother, Haris, was one of 132 children massacred at the school by the Taliban death squad.
Ahmad Nawaz, who came to the UK for emergency surgery on his wounds, studies Theology and Philosophy at LMH in Oxford
Mr Nawaz has spoken about his experiences many times and recently hosted Malala at the Oxford Union, which he described as ‘a surreal experience’
After the attack, Ahmad’s arm was so badly injured that doctors considered amputation. The student recovered and won a place at Oxford University
Ahmad Nawaz, left, is a near neighbour of Malala Yousafzai, pictured right, who was shot in the head by the Taliban. They both travelled to Birmingham for life-saving surgery. Muhammad Ibrahim, seated, was also wounded in a Taliban attack
Nawaz was the second Pakistani to be Oxford Union President after former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, who also attended Lady Margaret Hall. Bhutto was assassinated in 2007
But Ahmad Nawaz survived the attack and after emergency surgery in Peshawar, he was airlifted to hospital in Birmingham, where a renowned gunshot surgeon managed to save his arm.
Mr Nawaz moved to Birmingham in 2015 with his father Muhammad, his mother Samina and brother Umar.
He achieved six A-stars and two As in his GCSEs while on a scholarship to King Edward’s School in Edgbaston, before scoring 39 out of 45 in his International Baccalaureate to secure his place at the world-leading university.
Following in friend Malala’s footsteps, he began at Lady Margaret Hall in October 2020.
He told a reporter in 2020 that he was convinced the university’s upper-class, privileged stereotype is long outdated and that it could hardly be more daunting than the experiences he has endured.
The Oxford Union said in a statement that it was concerned to learn that some members felt their mental health has suffered but noted that their concerns had not been raised through its formal channels.
The student society added that it was unfortunate that Mr Nawaz had waited to have his meeting absences approved but that the membership had voted that he did not have a good reason to have missed the meeting.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
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