Image: Damage after fatal bomb attack on Karachi Catholics
Continuing on from Part 1 (click here) where we talked about the circumstances of Mrs DZ’s initial rejection and her appeal
The family launched another appeal, which again was denied, even though they supplied further evidence, including a letter from their parish priest, Father John Joseph Paul, stating that Mrs DZ’s husband was an active street evangelist who had a stall selling Christian books. This was simply rejected as not relevant by appealing to the earlier appeal judges ridiculous assertion that because he gave his trade as an electrical engineer he had to have been lying about his street stall.
A further reason for casting doubt on their claim was that it took some time before the police documents were sent to Mrs DZ. However, in BPCA’s experience this is not at all unusual or suspicious. Police in Pakistan are reluctant to supply such documentation for fear that external agencies might uncover their corruption or poor standards. Also discrimination means that Christians are treated as of no value – items free to Muslims have to be paid for by Christians. Delays due to backlogs are rife in general, and Christians more likely to have their cases languish in those backlogs.
Another reason given throughout is because the husband had said at his initial screening interview when asked if had been arrested. This is a pattern we have seen before with UKBA. Given that the main point of the claim was a false arrest, if I was asked this general question (are you wanted by authorities / have you been arrested in any country) I would assume they would mean anything else, and would answer no, too. The UKBA and the appeal judge both used this to assert his testimony contradicted Mrs DZ’s testimony and therefore totally undermined their credibility. For instance, in the infamous case of Asia Bibi a wait of a further 2 years is expected simply due to the fact that a huge backlog of court cases exist and political anxiety. In 2001 in a Foreign office report on Pakistan Human Rights and Democracy, the section on ‘Access to Justice’ states :
The justice sector in Pakistan is under-trained, often politicized, corrupt and under-resourced. The courts currently face a backlog of more than 1 million cases. Successful convictions are rare. Police investigations are often seriously flawed, based on allegation rather than evidence, and trials cannot be described as either fair or free in many cases, being marked by delay and intimidation. The government has made little progress on a comprehensive national strategy towards improving the situation, instead focusing on ad hoc measures such as increasing police salaries in Punjab. This is in part because the responsibility for formulating and implementing policy rests with the provincial rather than the federal-level government. The chief justice of the Supreme Court published a national judicial policy to tackle some of these issues amongst the judiciary in 2009, which in 2010 achieved a slight reduction in the huge backlog of cases.
It is notable that almost all Asylum applicants who instruct the BPCA to produce reports obtain Police information post-entry to the UK. The BPCA believes this to be due to increased boldness from victims who press Pakistani Police for data in the safety of the UK and an enhanced fervour on behalf of the Pakistani Police, faced with international scrutiny.
We have some other concerns. A previous Asylum case (name withheld) brought to our attention in August 2011 contained a report by a Daniel Price from the UKBA, in which he spoke of a sizeable community of Christians in Pakistan he incorporated data from the COIS report 2011: “Christians, officially numbered at 2.09 million, claimed to have 4 million members…” In the Reasons for Refusal letter sent to Mrs DZ the figure suddenly is definitely 4 million. However the UKBA fails to recognize that although the majority of Christians reside in the Punjab, it is an expansive area and hence the communities are very small in size when compared to their Muslim neighbours and thus very vulnerable. Taking official population statistics and using the larger 4 million Christians figure, they still only total 2% of the population. This is hardly sizeable. This tiny population has no weight in deciding political futures even when block voting, and thus has been overlooked by politicians. This has allowed unruly, extremist, jealous or simply sadistic groups or individuals to freely abuse Christians and other minorities with an impunity that is bolstered by the knowledge that systematic and cultural bias is in their favour.
BPCA asks would it be fair to send back this actively Christian family back to Karachi, especially in light of the scale and manner of the anti-Christian attacks in Karachi in February 2010 where Christian houses were shot at, Christians were indiscriminately beaten, their vehicles vandalized and their houses, shops and churches destroyed. Does the UKBA really think that the animus has really died down since then, given the continuing attacks since then (witness the recent murder of A Dass referred to earlier in the very city district this family attended church)? We submit that Karachi is a dangerous city for anybody, but especially for someone accused of converting Muslims, and especially Muslims from a terrorist group, to Christianity.
The UKBA, despite dismissing the family’s statements as ‘not credible’ then goes on to say that there should be no problem with the family relocating to another area of Pakistan, as their alleged problems were only with the local chapter of Sunni Tahreek. Hello? Does the UKBA not know of recent inventions called email, internet and mobile phones by which photos, news and intelligence can rapidly be passed from one area of the country to another, and from one branch to another? Given the animus against those who convert Muslims to Christianity, relocation would at best provide a very fragile and temporary relief. They survived at other locations only because they were in hiding, and did not go out to make a living. As soon as their ID’s are exposed, they would be at risk wherever they went in Pakistan, and not just from Sunni Tahreek. The fact is that Christians are discriminated against across the city. Mrs DZ and her family could make a living in Karachi precisely because they over the decades built up a support network there, but to start afresh elsewhere would mean great difficulties because they would not have such a network. The reason is that everywhere they go their de facto second class status is announced by their passport / Shanakti (ID) Card, necessary documents required to obtain education, employment and travel, and which has ‘Christian’ written on it.
Christians frequently can only find work with Muslim employers through bribes. For instance, the brother in law of Wilson chowdhry was required to pay £50 for a job as a trainee chef. He had a 2 week unpaid trial period where he was continually pressed to join Muslim prayers. He refused, and daily arguments started over it. This meant he feared a blasphemy case being laid against him, so he resigned his post, and lost his ‘rishwat’ or bribe as a result. This is typical of what Christians suffer in Pakistan, and how much more Mrs DZs family when they are accused of converting Muslims. The UKBA claims that this family could return to Pakistan together and enjoy family life. BPCA thinks ‘enjoy’ is precisely the wrong word – their family life would be riven with anxiety and depression and fear – they have little hope of any enjoyment, only of continued persecution and inequality. The FIR submitted by their persecutors makes quite clear what they face if they go back home – in it he openly states that he called the victim a kaffir – a very derogatory and threatening term, and says that if Mrs DZ’s husband did not stop evangelistic activity then ‘trouble would come to you’. Even in the false FIR, the attitude and contempt of the persecutors is made quite clear.
BPCA would like to express their extreme dissatisfaction with the central denial of credibility in the UKBA decision, that of the mix up of dates. Recalling dates is difficult in most circumstances – but even more so when undertaking an intense interview in a second language, with your future safety in the hands of the interviewer. Moreover, Mrs DZ is a Pakistani woman and will not be used to such situations. Her father would have been her protector in her youth and her husband after marriage. This is a common trait in Pakistani culture and should have been taken into consideration when her solicitors called for her husband to become the primary applicant. Like it or not this is a simple truth that prevents an accurate understanding of this Asylum application. And the UKBA is hardly one to talk about wrong dates undermining credibility. A stressed woman under such pressure can be expected to get confused about dates, but the UKBA had no excuse when they got their dates wrong in an official document when they had paper evidence to hand.
Once again we find that despite massive evidence of minority persecution in Pakistan the UKBA continue to deport the poor victims who successfully escape from the turmoil. In closing we reiterate that the events in this report highlight the inconsistencies between existing equality legislation and its practice in Pakistan, something the UKBA should pay much more heed to and bear in mind this quote from Henry David Thoreaux:
“The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free.”