WASHINGTON: Yasar Bashir, a Pakistani-American commander, has been appointed Assistant Chief of Houston Police as head of the family violence department, said an official announcement.

Mr Bashir, who also appeared in a National Geographic feature on Muslims in America in 2018, will be the first Muslim assistant chief of police in the United States.

Born near Lahore, he came to the United States with his family in 1985, when he was only 8. Mr Bashir joined the police force in 2001 and was in the academy when 9/11 happened.

He was studying finance when someone urged him to try the police department and stay if he liked it. “I liked it so much that I went back to the university (of Houston-Clear Lake) and did a master’s in criminology,” he told Dawn.

Asked why he decided to stay in the force, Mr Bashir said: “It’s exciting. It’s different and allows you to have a positive impact on others.”

So, on “the very first day, I decided to stay. I had studied finance for three years but went back to school to study criminology,” he said.

When reminded that this was not a popular profession among South Asians most of whom want to study medicine or computer science, Mr Bashir said: “You should do what you like. Besides, being in the police enables you to help the community.”

Asked if he faced discrimination in the force as a Muslim, Mr Bashir said: “Houston is very different, and has a truly diverse and open culture. It’s one of the best cities in the US. I received so much love and affection from my fellow officers that I will disagree with the suggestion.”

He said that the department was particularly helpful to its Muslim officers during Ramadan, giving break for iftar/dinner breaks and time to pray.

He said that Houston Police Chief Troy Finner went especially to a Muslim community event to announce his appointment, saying: “I am going to have somebody who will represent all of you.”

The Houston Police Department has many South Asian and Muslim police officers.

The most familiar among them is Muzaffar Siddiqi who has been with the force for more than a decade. Mr Bashir is one of only two South Asian captains in HPD, the other being Salam Zia.

The other officers are H. Amri (from Morocco), M. Mathews, Y.R. Haq, V. Patel, M. Qazi, Capt. Y. Bashir, M.A. Haider and Asif Qureshi.

Mathews is from Kerala, Haq, Qazi and Haider are from Karachi. Patel was born in Houston and is the only South Asian woman officer on the force.

“There are more desi officers in HPD,” said Bashir in a telephone inte­rview to a South Asian publication, “and several of them are deep undercover. But most of the desi officers are Pakistanis, followed by Indians.”

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2021

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