Texas slams campaign against Pak woman

WASHINGTON - Top officials of Sugar Land, a medium-sized city in the US state of Texas, have denounced an attempt to tarnish the image a Pakistani-American woman candidate for the city council ahead of next weeks election in which she is pitted against an Indian-American man. The officials District Attoney John Healey, Sugar Land Mayor James Thompson and Fort Bend County Democratic Party Head Steve Brown were reacting to an anonymous flier mailed to city voters that links the candidate Farha Ahmed, who is an attorney, to al-Qaeda. The flier, which was paid for by a concerned citizen of Sugar Land District 4, includes a portion of a dispatch that reportedly appeared in the International Herald Tribunes Express Tribune. The article is about Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86-year sentence for allegedly attacking US Military and FBI agents in Afghanistan, and states that, after firing her entire legal team, Ms Siddiqui is now represented by Farha Ahmed, a Texas-based attorney. The anonymous author asked in the flier why Ms. Ahmed would represent Lady Al Qaeda, Ms Siddiquis nickname in the media. Farha Ahmed, 46, has strongly denied the charge, saying she does not represent Ms Siddiqui, pointing out that she isnt a criminal defence lawyer. She said she is not licensed to practice in any state other than Texas or in federal court, and therefore would not be retained as an attorney in such a case. However, I do not believe that answering this question will stop the smear campaign against me by those who have a hidden agenda, Ahmed wrote in an email. They will continue to ask questions unrelated to the platform I am running on or the city issues we care about. Ms Ahmeds opponent Harish Jajoo, an engineer of Indian origin, has not commented the smear campaign so far. In a statement, Sugar Land District Attorney John Healey said, The recent mailing which attempts to tarnish Farha Ahmed with a guilty by association theme is a curious piece of political work. While performing the job of District Attorney for the last eighteen years, I cannot remember a political mailing whose sponsor chose to hide his/her identity. The mailer implies that Mrs. Ahmed is the attorney for a woman found guilty of crimes in Federal Court. What I do know is that Mrs. Ahmed does not practice criminal law. What I do know is that Farha Ahmed has assisted judges, defence attorneys, prosecutors and family law attorneys, to better help the victims of domestic violence. What I do know is that Farha Ahmed has been an advocate and voice for victims of domestic violence. She has helped my office to understand their plight. What I do know is that Farha Ahmed serves with me on the Advisory Council of the Childrens Advocacy Centre of our county, and that she has helped children that have suffered physical and sexual abuse. The ugly innuendoes of the anonymously authored mailer are inconsistent with the Farha Ahmed that I know. Sugar Land Mayor James Thompson said: It is unfortunate that some individual(s) have used the election campaign to bring up issues unrelated to the qualifications needed to serve on City Council. The focus on who to elect to City Council should be based on who would best serve our community, not religious or ethnic consideration. I encourage residents that are eligible to vote in the run-off elections to take this into consideration when casting their vote. Fort Bend County Democratic Chair Steve Brown said, As the Chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, Im appalled to see that hate has reared its ugly head in Sugar Lands run-off elections. We must all denounce the cowardly assertions of an anonymous author to associate a Sugar Land candidate with al-Qaeda. Lets hope the voters know better than to select their leaders based on any other criteria than the qualifications and experience that they would bring in serving Sugar Land. I ask all leaders to join me in advocating for a more civil election.

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