Lone Women and Ostracism in Pakistan

SM (Lone Women – Ostracism) Pakistan [2016] UKUT 67 (IAC) (2 February 2016)

Like his clever creator, Kipling’s fictional character of the orphaned/vagabond Irish immigrant child Kimball O’Hara – the devoted chela (disciple) of a lama – lived in late 19th century Lahore whose administration was run by 70 British civil servants. But, as seen in the photo, nowadays things are quite different in Punjab. Commando policewomen keep watch over Sikhs arriving in Wagah for pilgrimage near Lahore in the village of Talwandi (Sheikhupura district) where Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji was born in 1469. Despite such scenes, domestic violence remains at chronic levels in Pakistan. However, limited hope can nevertheless be found in the paradox that despite being a male dominated society, Pakistan’s feudal and patriarchal roots have produced strong willed women. Even almost a decade after her assassination, Pakistan is still very much Benazir Bhutto country. It is also Malala Yousufzai territory and the co-recipient of the Nobel peace prize (2014) is aspiring to follow in the murdered prime minister’s footsteps. Even Nawaz Sharif – a rather venal character who sold his soul to the ultra-misogynist Saudis long ago – has tipped his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, to be his successor and she seems destined to replace him if he cannot survive his heart problems and the political fallout of the Panama Papers.

SM, the appellant, was from Lahore. When she came to the UK in 2004 she abided by the terms of her visa and returned. But in 2006 she entered again and claimed asylum three-and-a-half years later in April 2010 on the ground that while in the UK she had become involved with someone other than her alienated husband, a wealthy and powerful person who would seek revenge upon her return to Pakistan, and had three children with him (but only after many miscarriages). She contended no shelter in Lahore would give her refuge and she was unable to relocate to another part of the country. In May 2010, her claim was dismissed and a decision was taken to remove her from the UK. Sitting as UTJJ Gleeson and Kebede, the Upper Tribunal dismissed her appeal on asylum, humanitarian protection and human rights grounds.


SM’s case was riddled with procedural complications. When, in 2011, the Court of Appeal decided to send it back to the Upper Tribunal, it did so on the basis that the question of SM’s ostracism as a lone mother with an illegitimate child had not been properly considered. Emphasis was placed in Scott Baker LJ’s judgment in SN (Pakistan) [2009] EWCA Civ 181, which failed to produce country guidance upon remittal to the Upper Tribunal, where the court observed an absence of country guidance on the overall question of single women with children being returned to Pakistan. Many things can be taken home from this country guidance case. First of all, SN and HM (Divorced women – risk on return) Pakistan CG [2004] UKIAT 00283 and KA and Others (domestic violence – risk on return) Pakistan CG [2010] UKUT 216 (IAC) remain valid guidance except for the changes made by the present case.

Like so many unsuspecting Pakistani women, SM was under the illusion she was entering into a “love marriage” but soon afterwards she was disowned by her family, with limited resumption of secret ties with her mother. She initially lived in Lahore with her husband who left for Oman where she later joined him. He later shifted to the UK and she visited for a month but went back to live in Lahore, initially alone but later with her husband’s family who abused her. So she returned to join with her husband in Nottingham. She only had a visit visa but intended to stay in the UK. Her passport was taken by her husband to extend her visa and it was never returned, or so she said. She claimed her husband was a drunkard and saw other women. She was unable to have a baby with him but did suffer several miscarriages. He became abusive, and eventually violent, with her and expelled her from the matrimonial home in March 2007 because he saw her talking to a male neighbour. He apparently returned to Pakistan.

After being ejected from the matrimonial home, she turned to the landlady (“auntie”) who rented her another property where she met another lodger with whom she ended up having a son after several miscarriages. Upon learning this, her husband visited her family’s house in Pakistan and attacked her brother and abused her family because of her low moral character and illicit relations with other men. He behaved similarly to her family members when he encountered them in public and the incidents multiplied which led her to claim asylum in April 2010.

SM’s partner was also an unsuccessful asylum seeker who did not challenge the refusal of his claim. Their initial relationship was not strong – and he only met his son intermittently – but later solidified after they had two other children and she said he lived at an unknown address in Nottingham but is very fond of their children and has daily meetings with them. The whole family is Pakistani and none of them have any form of leave to remain. In May 2010 the home office did not accept SM’s account of domestic violence and found she could avail protection in Pakistan and could relocate to another part of the country even if there was a real risk of serious harm or a reasonable degree of likelihood of persecution in Lahore. She could divorce her husband. Yet that decision was withdrawn in September 2013 because it failed to deal adequately with the best interests of the children pursuant to the duty under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.

In March 2014, a new decision said SM would not be at risk on return to Pakistan and could return there with her partner, and children, which would provide her with the protection of a male adult in Pakistan. Internal relocation to a different area of Pakistan, where their status as an unmarried couple was unknown, was considered a viable option. Even if their marital status became known, any societal ostracism that they may encounter would fall below the Refugee Convention standard and SM would still enjoy the benefit of her partner’s social and physical support and protection. The best interests of their children lay with them and removal of the family unit did not compromise SM’s human rights or the best interests of her children.


Dr Roger Ballard’s expert evidence suggested that a person in SM’s circumstances would be “kinless” in Pakistan. He said rich kinless women could overcome their predicament but otherwise without a suitable male guardian accommodation in Pakistan would come “with sexual strings attached”. He said women who were not accepted back by their families were at risk of being further ostracised on the basis that their sin must be exceptionally serious. Per the reports of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan he argued that women in Pakistan suffer chronic violence, discrimination, inequality, denial of economic rights and lack of control over their bodies and lives. (Despite disproportionate violence towards women in Pakistan, after Jo Cox’s murder in broad daylight I am not so convinced women in the UK are all that well protected.)

Dr Ballard also said that the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act 2006 – the brainchild of general Pervez Musharraf, a dictator who perhaps somewhat atoned the Pakistan army’s sins by trying to partially wash away the bloody stains of the dark and diabolical Zia years – was snubbed by the Council of Islamic Ideology (which Pakistan’s senate wants to see abolished) but conveniently forgot to mention that any law can be made without taking the Council’s advice. Contrary to Dr Ballard’s hyperbolic position, Professor Martin Lau, who did not act as expert in the instant case, has argued, rightly in my opinion, that Musharraf’s reforms “cannot be dismissed as a mere window dressing undertaken to satisfy a western audience.”

Christine Brown, a longstanding social worker with involvement in immigration and asylum appeals, gave specific evidence on the family situation between SM, her partner, and their children. She said that SM’s partner had never been in a relationship before. Her report described the family’s mutual dependencies and the parents’ interaction with the children. Brown said the children were “thriving” and if SM returned to Pakistan she would not be able to cope with them singlehandedly without her partner. Dr Ballard and Christine Brown did not give oral evidence and were presumably not cross-examined.

Upper Tribunal

After trawling through a raft of official documents – from the UK, US, Canada – and analysing women’s rights about obtaining khula divorce, the tribunal took a fresh look at KA and Others (domestic violence risk on return) Pakistan CG [2010] UKUT 216 (IAC). Examining the home office’s Country Information and Guidance: Women fearing gender-based violence, Pakistan, December 2015 and its predecessor, the tribunal noted that this report reiterated the guidance given in SN and HM (Divorced women – risk on return) Pakistan CG [2004] UKIAT 00283. In other words, women in Pakistan remain confronted by patriarchy, misogyny, economic hardship and social pressures regarding independence and so internal relocation is likely to be unduly harsh for many of them even though educated and professional women may find it possible to support themselves in alternative locations.

The report also restated the concerns voiced by local human rights activists that a mixture of economic, religious and social factors make it “next to impossible” for a single woman to live alone in Pakistan. The findings of Aurat Foundation’s annual report 2013 also formed a part of the official guidance and it was clear that only a tiny number of women seeking refuge could get shelter and going to live in “a shelter is still considered taboo and perceived as the last resort of women who have been turned away by respectable society”.

Notably, indigenous critiques argue that the new Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Crisis Centres can only give women shelter for a couple of days and in the long run they are accommodated in the Islamabad Women’s Crisis Centre, or the Dar ul-Aman shelter homes of the provincial governments, or encouraged to settle their family differences. Reputational consequences also arise for women seeking shelter and while some good work is being done in the field, some places, such as Malala’s Swat valley, do not have any shelters at all and shelters in other locations are insufficiently staffed and occupants run the risk of further abuse.

The abjectness of the situation is reflected in Aurat Foundation’s 2014 report. It found seven functioning shelters in Karachi, one in Hyderabad, four in Peshawar, one in Islamabad, and one in Mardan district. Services in Mardan and Peshawar were deemed “highly insufficient and unreliable”. Wholesale violence against women in South Asia led the World Bank to conclude in 2014 that victims “rescued” from honor crimes also suffer abuse when remanded to safe houses where conditions are abysmal and prisonlike. Similarly, society rejects those who have been sexually abused because they are as “dishonored”, “spoiled” and “bringing shame to their families”.

The US State Department reached similar conclusions. It noted that the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Amendment Act 2011 criminalises acts such as (i) giving a woman in marriage to settle a civil or criminal dispute (ii) depriving a woman of her rights to inherit movable or immovable property by deceitful or illegal means (iii) coercing or in any manner compelling a woman to enter into marriage and (iv) compelling, arranging, or facilitating the marriage of a woman with the Quran, including forcing her oath on the Quran to remain unmarried or not to claim her share of an inheritance.

On the other hand, examining the murder of Farzana Iqbal – who was brutally murdered by male family members outside Lahore High Court in 2014 because of a love marriage without her parents’ consent – the US State Department could only be sceptical about real change despite death sentences that were pronounced to four men in the case. It also lamented that in 2010 in its bid to expand its power the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) declared several clauses of the Women’s Protection Act 2006 to be un-Islamic and unconstitutional. The Federal Government’s appeal against that decision is pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. If the government loses it might well be that the reinstatement of certain provisions of the Hudood Ordinance 1979 – as regards the FSC’s jurisdiction in cases of adultery and false accusations of adultery – could, as in the past, permit the use of adultery charges against women in cases of rape.

Looking at the options for divorce available to women in Pakistan – khula divorce or judicial divorce – the tribunal noted local experts’ concerns about the shortfall of real power in female hands because of men’s ability to unilaterally pronounce talaq despite both spouses having legal and religious rights to dissolve a marriage.

Since there is a strong urban/rural divide in Pakistan, women’s ability to live on their own is dictated by location and cities in Sindh and Punjab tend to be more liberal than those in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan. Despite specialist advice that women’s options to enter into battles with their husbands were potentially limited, the tribunal noted that recent legal reforms had resulted in “slow but visible cultural change”.

The tribunal also took a fresh look at the 2008 publication Safe to Return? Pakistani women, domestic violence and access to refugee protection – a report of a trans-national research project conducted in the United Kingdom. Highlighting that this joint report of the (now closed) South Manchester Law Centre and Manchester Metropolitan University was considered in KA and Others, the tribunal adopted the approach entailed in the earlier country guidance case where concerns were expressed at para 210 et seq about the dossier and “caution” was urged because of its age and the fact that it was a “campaigning document” written as a critique of authoritative case law on internal relocation by legal practitioners who which it consider it “too restrictive”. In KA and Others, the tribunal found that, as a study, Safe to Return? was “not simply an assessment of the situation in Pakistan”.

As manifestations of “broad generalisations” its main findings were “troubling” as they and the authors accepted that “their research had various limitations”. It was heavily reliant on press coverage and did not have strong empirical foundations to support the broad generalisations made, about women returning to their abuser husbands for example, because it was (a) geographically limited (b) without access to comprehensive data regarding women’s centres in Pakistan and (c) based on input from victims of domestic violence or service providers involved with them. The tribunal said that country guidance should “avoid broad generalisations” and focus on “the individual’s particular circumstances”. As regards domestic violence, it found slow improvement in the overall situation in Pakistan but said that the country’s size, geography, attitudes and perceptions meant that it was impossible to generalise/predict what might happen in an individual case? For example, a key interviewee said in the report that “Lahore is a city and here women are progressive”.

But on the subject of the availability of shelters and whether it was unduly harsh for internal relocation purposes to expect women to use them, the tribunal found in KA and Others at para 236 that it was insufficient to answer questions about internal relocation by reference to the availability and adequacy of shelters/refuges. Apart from the conditions in the shelters themselves, it was important to focus on the general position women would be put in by using the shelters in the long run. It was also observed that on entering a shelter a mother with male children over the age of five would be confronted with the choice of having her sons put in an orphanage or madrassa. Against the backdrop of domestic violence, such children may have specific psychological needs. In circumstances where mothers were forced to make such a difficult choice the children’s trauma could only intensify upon separation. The tribunal, however, did not see that as fatal to internal relocation but said such a situation “may be a factor which has considerable significance when considering the reasonableness of internal relocation”: para 242.


UTJJ Gleeson and Kebede adopted the above analysis of Safe to Return? and they endorsed all the findings made in KA and Others regarding the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act 2006 which led to the release of 2,500 female prisoners, restricted the ambit of the abhorrent CIA and Saudi supported Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979, disempowered husbands from registering a First Information Report (FIR) with the police alleging adultery and even reformed bail rights in adultery cases.

Similarly, findings about high levels of domestic violence and the patriarchal nature of Pakistani society were also endorsed and it was stressed that in assessing whether female victims of domestic violence have a viable internal relocation alternative, regard must be had not only to the availability of such shelters but also to the situation they will face after they leave such centres.

It was clear to the tribunal that on the whole women at threat from their husbands/families would not be protected by the Pakistani state despite recent legislative reforms. Family support, male protection, educational credentials, wealth, age and potential internal relocation to one of the larger cities were all important factors in measuring the nature, source and scope of the risk in the specific case under consideration. The tribunal accepted Ms Brown’s evidence about the strong and growing bond between SM, her partner and their children. It noted that Dr Ballard was a respected personality and had assisted as expert in TG and others (Afghan Sikhs persecuted) (CG) [2015] UKUT 595 (IAC) and his evidence was accepted that female heads of households without make backing may be considered “kinless” Pakistan.

On the other hand, the tribunal was concerned about the fact that Dr Ballard’s “report provides no sources for his opinions and conclusions” and treated “with a degree of caution” his assertion that short of a room in a five star hotel a woman would male backing would be at risk of accepting an accommodation offer which she realised too late came with sexual strings attached. The evidence of the Canadian IRB or the US State Department Report contradicted his theory, one he advanced without differentiating by age, social position, education or financial resources. However, subject to caution on similar grounds, the tribunal concurred with Dr Ballard that where a woman’s family will not accept her return to them, she runs a higher risk of ostracism on the basis that her sin would be perceived as having been exceptionally serious.

UTJJ Gleeson and Kebede also made other points worth noting. It was widely accepted that women can divorce in Pakistan by (a) khula divorce, which requires the filing of a divorce suit at the Family Court, either within Pakistan or from overseas through the appointment of an agent by way of a power of attorney (b) or judicial divorce, pursuant to section 2 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, on a limited number of grounds, including where the whereabouts of the husband have not been known for a period of four years. As confirmed by the Canadian IRB it is incorrect that divorce proceedings cannot be initiated without the husband’s consent, or without a Nikah Nama. Poor, uneducated rural women totally dependent on their family for support were in much greater danger of falling into serious difficulty if ostracised for having a love marriage or for divorcing their husband.


Heartless as it may seem, the tribunal decided that the UK would not be in breach of its international human rights obligations, or any other international obligations, if SM and her family were sent back to Pakistan. The overall finding was linked to the conclusion that, other than her assertions, nothing by way of evidence suggested that he “retained any interest in her”. He ended the relationship. In the eight years since then he had not contacted SM, nor sought to file charges against her for adultery, or to harm her in any other way.

All that steered the tribunal to find against SM. But they threw caution to the wind and by falling into the trap of believing – indeed as many abused women do – the presenting officer’s misguided argument that he may even have divorced the appellant unilaterally by way of talaq. Strictly speaking, because of the terms of section 7 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, it is not possible for a husband to unilaterally divorce his wife by saying “talaq, talaq, talaq” without meeting the other statutory conditions. In reality whosoever contravenes the requirement of not giving the chairman notice of talaq and copying the same to his wife is “punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year of with a fine of five thousand rupees or with both.”

It was held at para 102 that returning SM, her partner and their children as a unit was a viable option and they could relocate outside Lahore, there was no reason why they should face problems as an unmarried couple and no reason why they could not marry. Her partner could work in Pakistan as a chef, driver and machinery operator. Similarly, nothing suggested that the partner’s family would reject her and their grandchildren, but in any event it was held the family could establish themselves in Pakistan with or without the support of extended family members. She would not be at risk of being regarded as a single woman, or an adulteress, and the risk of being subjected to ostracism and discrimination did not arise. Her circumstances in Pakistan would not amount to a risk of persecution or serious harm and her appeal on asylum and humanitarian protection ground was therefore dismissed.

The article 8 analysis was also against the family who fell outside the scope of Appendix FM. They were also not aided by the any exceptional or compelling circumstances outside the rules warranting the respondent to consider exercising her discretion, as set out in Nagre [2013] EWHC 720 (Admin) and endorsed by the Court of Appeal in Singh [2015] EWCA Civ 74. The section 55 duty did not matter as, with the oldest aged six, the children were “still very young.” Insofar as part 5A of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (as amended) and the statutory presumptions set out in section 117B were concerned, it was apparent that they operated to dilute the family’s article 8 claim because they were a burden on the public purse. The children were not qualifying children because they were not British or settled here, the couple’s family and private life had developed when they were here without leave.


The tribunal had already found in 2012 that Ahmadis are not entirely unsafe in Pakistan. It also said in 2014 that Christians are discriminated against but not persecuted. Now it has gone down the same road in relation to ostracised women. This is really astonishing because it is a well-known fact that more than a thousand women are murdered annually in Pakistan in the form of honour killings. Things are so badly out of control even the mullahs are not happy about the state of affairs and have issued a joint fatwa condemning honour killings. But the killing of the social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered only yesterday, shows that things are only getting worse. Qandeel Baloch, dubbed “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian” who desired Indian citizenship because she was “disappointed from Pakistan”, dared to challenge stereotypical views on women but became the latest victim of Pakistan’s culture of intolerance because her brother strangled her for bringing dishonour to her family. Of course, the maximum punishment must be imposed on her killer so that justice can be done in her case. “Nothing is good in this society. This patriarchal society is bad,” she said in a recent interview. But her unrepentant brother Waseem Azeem, who is a drug addict, does not regret killing for dishonouring the Baloch people.

It is impolite to curse the dead. But since we are not living in Solon’s Athens, where speaking ill of the dead was forbidden because it was considered just to spare the absent and smart to rob hatred of its perpetuity, it must be said Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was a brutal and murderous swine. Dead or alive, it is hard to look at his American, British and Saudi backers in any other light. Zia gave Pakistan its insane blasphemy laws. Tens of thousands of people were accused of blasphemy after 1987 whereas only a handful of accusations occurred prior to that. Indeed, throngs of people poured onto the streets to show solidarity with Mumtaz Qadri – former governor of Punjab Salman Taseer’s bodyguard who murdered his boss for supporting reprieve for Asia Bibi (a Catholic who is on death row for blasphemy) – when he was executed.

“The context of a blasphemy trial is all powerful in its ability to corrupt,” is how Isabel Buchanan neatly explains the situation in her new book Trials: On Death Row in Pakistan. Buchanan highlights that it is accepted in official circles that two-thirds of the 8,000 people on death row in Pakistan are in fact innocent. She also explains that the president of Pakistan is not in a position to pardon someone accused of blasphemy, which is ultimately a crime against God. The big legal problem, of course, is that the complainant is a mere witness and not the victim. Buchanan laments that the “power of the blasphemy charge” sets the stage for a “climate of fear” in Pakistan which in turn throws cases out of control. She bemoans that in the case of Yasir Ansari, which was a land dispute in reality, the medical report produced in Pakistan regarding his sanity was prejudiced against him and his British medical record was found to be in admissible in a Pakistani court.

Terrible as that may be, it is also true that the immigration courts in the UK also routinely disallow expert reports from being admitted. The judges cheat and lie about the law at every turn despite being free from the pressures of unruly mobs outside their courtrooms. So Orientalists such as Buchanan should be slow to assume their country’s superiority because even though immigration appellants in the UK are not charged with blasphemy, some of them will most certainly die upon return because of the vile/victimising judicial decisions in their cases. I am not talking about some foreign criminals or a drug dealing asylum claimants but about 80 year old Indian widows who are badly mentally ill and will die in India without the care of their British families.

Zia’s hudood laws also introduced stoning to death and whipping (the latter for married women and the former for unmarried women) and amputation for theft (of the right hand) and robbery (of the right hand and left foot). However, from what is known, the state has not yet actually inflicted these penalties on accused defendants because the standard of proof is a particularly high one. Where the accused is Muslim the standard requires four male real time “Muslim” witnesses of good repute (or “tazkiyah al-shuhood”) testifying to the crime. Since it is a particularly corrupt country where lying and cheating are a way of life, the judges of the FSC (which hears appeals in cases involving Sharia based punishments proposed by trial courts) have never found the standard of proof to have been in fact be met. They probably never will because there are no real Muslims in Pakistan.

With his customary excellence Lau, who for example unlike William Dalrymple is not exactly an echt kabootar baz, argues that Islamisation in Pakistan is “judge led”. But local knowledge indicates that the judiciary was probably trying to save its own skin. Many Pakistanis will know only too well that Islamisation in Pakistan was achieved through the barrel of the gun by the armed forces. Worse still it was the Americans, British and their vile Saudi allies who colluded with the army to inflict deep and lasting wounds on the country as the free western world sat around the arena as spectators and applauded Zia; who, for example, even personally ordered the executions of young democracy activists such as Nasir Baloch (unrelated to Qandeel Baloch, who has become the latest “Girl in the River”).

The FSC, which has recently appointed its first female justice (who must be lonely like Lady Hale), is an odd institution. Its creator Zia personally thought two women’s testimony was worth one man’s. Because real judges outnumber Islamic ulama by five to three the FSC has found technical flaws in all the stoning and amputation appeals presented to it; which effectively meant that the sentences passed were not inflicted. Despite only women only holding six per cent of the judicial positions in Pakistan, the mere fact that women can even sit on the FSC to vitiate the wishes of the Islamic ulama is quite ironic and must make Zia turn in his grave.

I guess it will be up to Pakistanis to secularise our Pakistan and throw all the dirt from the past into the dustbin forever. The good news of course is that Pakistan is still Benazir Bhutto country. It is Malala Yousufzai territory.

As for women’s evidence equaling half that of men, even when she was a minor Muhammad’s wife Ayesha’s testimony was upheld as equaling (arguably even exceeding) that of a man when she was falsely accused of adultery. And, in part, she even successfully defied male dominated Arabia by leading troops into battle by picking a fight with not just any man, but a very powerful man indeed – i.e. Muhammad’s first cousin and protector, Mawla ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib father of the (later) martyred Imam Ḥusayn (see here). As a good Muslim, he showed mercy and spared her life. Instead of having her beheaded or stoned to death for staging a rebellion against his Caliphate, Imam ‘Alī, who as a man of war was quite well accustomed to bloodshed, preferred to ostracise her for her insolence and cheekiness. As the Prophet of Allah himself said in unambiguous terms without hesitation at the pond at Ghadir Khumm in 632 AD:

He of whom I am the Mawla, of him Alī is also the Mawla (man kuntu mawlāhu fa-ʿAlī mawlāhu) …

Country Guidance

According to the Upper Tribunal:

  1. Save as qualified by the present case, the existing country guidance in SN and HM (Divorced women – risk on return) Pakistan CG [2004] UKIAT 00283 and in KA and Others (domestic violence – risk on return) Pakistan CG [2010] UKUT 216 (IAC) remains valid.
  1. Where a risk of persecution or serious harm exists in her home area for a single woman or a female head of household, there may be an internal relocation option to one of Pakistan’s larger cities, depending on the family, social and educational situation of the woman in question.
  1. It will not be normally be unduly harsh to expect a single woman or female head of household to relocate internally within Pakistan if she can access support from family members or a male guardian in the place of relocation.
  1. It will not normally be unduly harsh for educated, better off, or older women to seek internal relocation to a city. It helps if a woman has qualifications enabling her to get well-paid employment and pay for accommodation and childcare if required.
  1. Where a single woman, with or without children, is ostracised by family members and other sources of possible social support because she is in an irregular situation, internal relocation will be more difficult and whether it is unduly harsh will be a question of fact in each case.
  1. A single woman or female head of household who has no male protector or social network may be able to use the state domestic violence shelters for a short time, but the focus of such shelters is on reconciling people with their family networks, and places are in short supply and time limited. Privately run shelters may be more flexible, providing longer term support while the woman regularises her social situation, but again, places are limited.
  1. Domestic violence shelters are available for women at risk but where they are used by women with children, such shelters do not always allow older children to enter and stay with their mothers. The risk of temporary separation, and the proportionality of such separation, is likely to differ depending on the age and sex of a woman’s children: male children may be removed from their mothers at the age of 5 and placed in an orphanage or a madrasa until the family situation has been regularised (see KA and Others (domestic violence risk on return) Pakistan CG [2010] UKUT 216 (IAC)). Such temporary separation will not always be disproportionate or unduly harsh: that is a question of fact in each case.
  1. Women in Pakistan are legally permitted to divorce their husbands and may institute divorce proceedings from the country of refuge, via a third party and with the help of lawyers in Pakistan, reducing the risk of family reprisals. A woman who does so and returns with a new partner or husband will have access to male protection and is unlikely, outside her home area, to be at risk of ostracism, still less of persecution or serious harm.

About Asad Ali Khan, BA, MSc, MA, LL.B (Hons), LL.M

Senior Partner, Khan & Co, Barristers-at-Law
This entry was posted in Article 3, Article 8, Asylum, Hale JSC, Immigration Act 2014, Islam, Pakistan, Persecution, Politics, Refugee Convention, s 55 BCIA, Tribunals, Women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Lone Women and Ostracism in Pakistan

  1. mkp says:


    Pakistan police launch murder probe into Samia Shahid death

    Police in Pakistan have launched a murder investigation into the death of a woman whose husband says she was the victim of a so-called honour killing.

    Samia Shahid, 28, from Bradford, died last week in Northern Punjab.

    Police are treating her death as suspicious after receiving information from her husband.

    No arrests have been made but officers are investigating her father and want to speak to first husband Choudhry Shakeel, who has gone on the run.

    Syed Mukhtar Kazam believes his wife, who had gone to Pakistan to visit relatives, was killed because her family disapproved of their marriage.

    He said that before she left, her family had threatened her life.

    Meanwhile, a relative of Ms Shahid’s was arrested by West Yorkshire Police on Tuesday over alleged threats against Bradford West MP, Naz Shah.

    The MP had been calling for Ms Shahid’s death to be investigated. She has written to the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, calling for her body to be exhumed.

    She said: “I’m not going to rest until I’m satisfied I know the cause of her death – we need to investigate it fully.”

    A 32-year-old woman remains in custody.

  2. mkp says:


    Police search for ex-husband of woman who died in ‘honour killing’ in Pakistan

    Pakistani interior minister announces special investigation after Mohammad Shakeel flees home village following death of Samia Shahid

    Samia Shahid, from Bradford, died last Wednesday while visiting her family in the village of Pandori, Pakistan.

    A special team has been set up to hunt for the former husband of a British woman whose death in Pakistan last week is being treated as a potential “honour” killing, police said on Wednesday.

    Mohammad Shakeel fled the village of Pandori, 80km south of Islamabad, soon after a complaint was lodged with police on Saturday accusing him and other family members of murdering his former wife Samia Shahid.

    It is alleged that Shahid, 28, had been tricked into travelling to Pakistan and killed for marrying against the wishes of her family.

    On Wednesday, some of the most senior policemen in the Punjab province, as well as agents from Pakistan’s military intelligence agency the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, descended on Pandori and searched two of the cluster of houses where the extended family live.

    The case, which has been highlighted by the Bradford West MP Naz Shah, has become a priority after Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, announced that he had ordered a rapid investigation.

    Also under suspicion is Shahid’s father, Mohammad, who told police he discovered his daughter’s body, with vomit around her mouth, in Shakeel’s house on Wednesday 20 July.

    Wisal Fakhar Sultan, the regional police officer for Rawalpindi, said police were investigating whether Shahid had killed herself, accidentally taken an overdose or been deliberately poisoned.

    Tablets and mobile phones were taken from Shakeel’s house and a forensics laboratory in Lahore has been ordered to speed up analysis of samples taken from Shahid’s body.

    One officer told the Guardian it was likely she had been deliberately poisoned. He said bruising had been found on her neck and shoulders, contradicting earlier statements by the police. Officials said Shahid’s cousin Mobeen, her sister Madiha and her mother Imtiaz Bibi were all also under investigation.

    Shahid’s father was briefly arrested on Monday night but later released following the intervention of a local politician. Mujahid Khan, a senior officer from the local district of Jhelum, said her father was “under strict surveillance” and that his passport had been confiscated to stop him from leaving the country.

    Mohammad Shahid told the Guardian he had attempted to call Shakeel to ask him to give himself up to the police but had not been able to get through.

    “My daughter was living with her husband Shakeel and I used to visit her every day,” he said. “I went as usual on Wednesday and I found her lying on the stairs. Shakeel and all of the rest of the family were in my home next door.”

    The imposing compounds searched by police on Tuesday are some the largest houses in Pandori, where Mohammad Shahid enjoys prestige as the wealthy owner of a Bradford curry house. Police have struggled to find any neighbours to help them with their inquiries who are not family members.

    The family insist Shahid was married to Shakeel, a first cousin, and police in Pakistan say they have not received any documents proving otherwise.

    In fact, she divorced him in a UK sharia court in 2014 and then remarried a man called Syed Mukhtar Kazam after taking the incendiary step of converting to Shi’ism, a different sect to the Sunni faith of her family.

    Friends of Shahid in the UK said the family felt so dishonoured by her behaviour that they did not acknowledge she had remarried.

    West Yorkshire police last year warned a member of Shahid’s family in Bradford for harassing her. She had returned home from Dubai, where she had been living with her new husband, and hoped to reconcile with her relatives, but was so afraid of them that she asked a female police officer to accompany her to the family home in Manningham. Even in the presence of the police officer, one relative abused her and was given an official harassment warning, police said.

    Kazam was so concerned about her safety that he tried to prevent her visiting Pakistan to see her family last week after she received messages saying her father was extremely unwell. He flew to Pakistan after learning of her death to lodge a complaint with police.

    On Wednesday, a 37-year-old man and 32-year-old woman were in custody in Bradford in connection to alleged threats made against Shah, the MP who raised the alarm about the case, West Yorkshire police said.

    Shah said she could not comment on the nature of threats allegedly made to her, but said she had been called by police to discuss her security arrangements.

    She said she had received a briefing from the Pakistani authorities on Wednesday to say that the interior minister was overseeing the case personally.

    “I was told that the case is now under his watch and he has assigned two of his most senior and capable officers to the investigation,” she said

    “I feel reassured by this development because the investigation has gone from them basically doing nothing and saying they were just waiting for the forensic tests to come back to them treating it as a potential murder investigation. I am determined to see justice done.”

  3. mkp says:


    Bradford MP accuses Pakistani officials of potential cover-up in ‘honour killing’

    Naz Shah raises questions after postmortem finds Samia Shahid, who died in Pakistan, had bruising around her neck.

    A Bradford MP has accused Pakistani officials of colluding in “a potential cover-up” of what she believes was the “honour” killing of one of her constituents, who married against her parents’ wishes.

    Samia Shahid, 28, died last week after allegedly being tricked into travelling to Pakistan by her family, who allegedly disapproved of her love marriage to a man from a different Islamic sect.

    Pakistani police investigating the death told the Guardian on Sunday that there were “no visible injuries or signs of violence” on Shahid’s body when it was found last Wednesday in the family home in Pandori, Jhelum, 50 miles (80km) south of Islamabad.

    A postmortem report released on Thursday shows that her body did in fact have a “reddish brown linear horizontal bruise measuring about 19cm extending from just below [the] right ear and around the neck”.

    The Guardian has seen photographs of Shahid’s body, which appear to confirm the finding. There also appear to be two purple welts around her neck. Naz Shah, Shahid’s MP in Bradford West, has accused Pakistani authorities of a potential cover-up in light of the findings.

    She said on Thursday: “I originally intervened in this case to demand that there was a proper investigation into my constituent’s death, saying it had all the hallmarks of a so-called ‘honour’ killing. Having seen the autopsy report, I think we are now also looking at a case involving a potential cover-up.”

    Shah said she had spoken to the Pakistani high commissioner to the UK, Syed Ibne Abbas, who told her the Pakistani ombudsman was investigating.

    “I have asked for the police officer and the physician who did the first postmortem to be investigated,” the MP said. “Just a few days ago they were telling us the autopsy was inconclusive and that there were no visible signs on her body and now the autopsy report shows that there were marks on her neck.”

    Shahid’s family have said variously that she died of a heart attack or an asthma attack and insist they did not kill her.

    On Thursday, Shahid’s second husband, Syed Mukhtar Kazam, said he was not satisfied with the police and demanded a fresh postmortem.

    “They are trying to cover up this murder,” he said. “My life has been threatened, but there is no question of being quiet. It is a question of justice and my agenda is she was killed and I need justice for her.”

    He alleges that his wife was tricked into travelling to Pakistan by relatives who falsely claimed a relative had fallen ill there.

    On Wednesday, a special team was set up to hunt for Shahid’s first husband, Mohammed Shakeel, who fled Pandori soon after a complaint was lodged with police on Saturday accusing him and other family members of murdering his former wife.

    On Thursday, the district police officer for Jhelum, Mujahid Akbar, told the Guardian that Shakeel has been granted pre-arrest bail by the Rawalpindi high court. This procedure affords legal relief to a defendant in anticipation of a possible arrest, effectively meaning they cannot be arrested. Police said Shakeel presented himself to the authorities for questioning on Thursday.

    The family insist Shahid was married to Shakeel, a first cousin, and police in Pakistan say they have not received any documents proving otherwise.

    In fact, she divorced him in a UK sharia court in 2014 and then married Kazam at Leeds town hall in September 2014, after converting to Shia Islam, while her family is Sunni.

    Friends of Shahid in the UK said the family felt so dishonoured by her behaviour that they did not acknowledge she had remarried.

    A family member in Bradford was given a harassment warning by police in September 2015 when Shahid, who was living in Dubai, returned to the UK to try to patch things up with her family, West Yorkshire police said.

    Two people, believed to be cousins of Shahid, were arrested in Bradford earlier this week on suspicion of threatening Shah. Both were bailed on Wednesday night pending further investigations.

  4. mkp says:


    My family were chasing me. We knew they wouldn’t stop. This is their law’: Inside Pakistan’s hidden world of honour killings. The moment Rukhsana Bibi woke up, she knew her father had come to kill her. On a hot summer’s night in Pakistan, the newlyweds had pushed their bed out into the courtyard to sleep. But it was a noise from inside the ramshackle house that caused her, just sixteen, in love and pregnant, to wake with a start. “I shouted ‘Younis Younis. Wake up! Men are inside our home’,” she remembered. “Younis woke up and tried to grab one of them. But two people held him, while another shot two bullets at me. They both hit me in my chest. Younis was resisting, so they shot him too, in the arms, legs and chest. They shot him 11 times.” Four months earlier, Rukhsana had defied her family by eloping with her teenage love. An imam’s daughter and a top student who dreamed becoming a doctor, Rukshana had waited until the day of her 10th-grade biology exam before running away with the young man from her tribe, fleeing her engagement to her first cousin. They had driven in secret from Mansehra to Peshawar, where they exchanged vows, she still in her school uniform.

    The men who had tracked her down to her remote hideaway home were her father, uncle and cousins, she said – they had come to kill her for defying tribal law and dishonouring her family by marrying the man she loved.

    “We knew my family were chasing me. We knew they wouldn’t leave us alone. This is their law,” said Rukhsana. “But because we lived in a remote area, we thought we could remain secret at least for a few years.”

    “We often discussed being chased. But whenever I said that someone will kill us one day, Younis would tell me not to worry. He said: ‘If someone comes, first I will use my body to stop the shooting, and he will have to cross my body to reach you.’” As it turned out, Younis did die protecting his young wife, who survived after being rescued by neighbours who heard her screams. Their baby later died just one day after it was born, severely disabled.

    Their story is just one of Pakistan’s many so-called “honour killings”.

    Last week, Samia Shahid, a British woman who was visiting her Pakistani family, was found dead with a bruise on her neck. Syed Mukhtair, her second husband, alleges that the family was unhappy with his wife’s divorce and remarriage to him, and killed her. The family strongly deny the claims.

    A fortnight earlier Qandeel Baloch, a controversial female Pakistani celebrity, was choked to death in her sleep by her own brother, triggering a public outcry. He too claimed she had brought shame on their family.

    But in Pakistan, honour-related killings are a daily occurrence. Between 500 and 1,000 cases are reported every year. Activists say the true number of such crimes is closer to 12,000.

    Deeply rooted in centuries-old tribal traditions, most are triggered by “love marriages”, against one or both families’ wishes.

    And although reliable statistics are not available, activists believe the number of cases is on the rise.

    “My own sense is that there is even more violence now, the reason being that violence against women is at a reactive stage,” said Farzana Bari, a leading Pakistani woman’s rights activist.

    “Even in rural areas, tribal and feudal structures are eroding. More girls are using technology, mobile phones to talk to men, but if they’re caught they get killed. They want to marry of their own choice, running away from home, but if they’re caught they get killed. It is a form of control.” Convictions for “honour killings” in Pakistan remain incredibly rare. Ms Bari said she had been working on the subject for 25 years, but has only ever seen two “serious convictions” awarded.

    “In most of these cases the evidence is already so manipulated right from the initial phases that even liberal judges can’t convict,” she said. “We also cannot rule out the fact that a lot of our higher judiciary is very male dominated with a patriarchal mindset.” Across the country, there are some signs of progress. Eight years ago, a senator from Balochistan publicly defended the burying alive of three teenage girls in his province, saying it was “our tribal custom” and should not be discussed. Today, politicians would not dare to openly support such killings, said Ms Bari, although they may remain silent to appease deeply conservative voters.

    More importantly, within the next few weeks, Pakistan’s parliament will vote on a new “honour killing bill”.

    This long-awaited change to the law, widely expected to pass, is the result of years of lobbying and growing public anger.

    Nawaz Sharif, the country’s prime minister, who has said “there is no honour in honour killing”, pledged to close a heavily criticised loophole in the law which allows victim’s family members to legally forgive the murderer – who is, in the majority of cases, another member of the same family.

    The new “honour killing bill” seeks to close this loophole, which arose when military dictator General Zia ul-Haq “Islamised” Pakistani law in the 1970s, introducing the twin Islamic concepts of Qisas (eye-for-an-eye) and Diyat (compensation).

    Up to 1,000 honour killings are reported each year in Pakistan

    Activists say the real figure is closer to 12,000 per year

    The victim is killed because they are perceived to have brought shame upon their family

    In many cases the victim is killed after marrying against their family’s wishes

    Honour killers can sometimes be pardoned by the victim’s family due to a loophole in Pakistan’s legal system

    “How can the judge say ‘This is an honour killing?’ They have to depend on the evidence put before them by police,” said the source. “They won’t take the burden on themselves.”

    For women like Rukhsana, any help from the state will be welcomed. In many ways, her story echoes that of Saba Qaiser, another rare survivor, which was told in last year’s Oscar-winning film A Girl in the River.

    But while Saba’s father and uncle, who admitted shooting her and throwing her into a river, were released after she, under intense family pressure, pardoned them in court, Rukhsana is not ready to forgive.

    Of the five men Rukhsana identified, one was swiftly found innocent by the police investigation, another acquitted due to lack of evidence, and three absconded. Rukhsana and her murdered husband’s family say they are too afraid to appear in court to pursue the case further.

    Speaking to the Daily Telegraph three years on at an undisclosed location, because she still lives in hiding and receives deaths threats from her own family, she said she was still waiting for justice.

    “There is no happiness left in my life, and I demand that this tribal law should be abolished,” she said. “It ruins dozens of lives, young boys and girls, who also have no happiness or choice of how to spend their own lives.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.