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Canadians rally for protection of girl threatened with death for pursuing sexual harassment case against Pakistan Embassy.


Maherwar Ishaq

Canadian citizens are gathering outside the legislative assembly building of Alberta in the capital city of Edmonton on Saturday. They gather to call for asylum for a beleaguered Christian girl who has been threatened with death if she dares to challenge a Pakistani official who sexually harassed her.

Date: September 30th
Time: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Location: By the steps of the Legislature Building, Edmonton, Alberta. The impetus for this event intertwines several facts that converge with what has happened to this one young woman.

Maherwar Ishaq and her family fled Pakistan after an altercation between her young nephew and a Muslim child led to a blasphemy allegation. Forced to flee their home they travelled to Thailand, where they soon realised they were unwanted by a government intent on sending back thousands of other Pak-Christians back to their previous nightmare existence. Eking out an existence in the shadows Maherwar like many other Pakistani Christians soon realised she required a passport renewal to obtain donations via Western Union from friends desiring to help.

Initially the Pakistani Embassy informed Pakistani Christians that it was impossible to gain a passports while asylum seekers. However when Wilson Chowdhry chairman of the BPCA visited Third Secretary Kamran Dhangal they soon changed their tone expressing their desire to help, Mr Dhangal, said "Asylum seekers remain citizens of Pakistan until they choose to relinquish their nationality, of course they can apply for passports and it is our duty to help."

With this good news Maherwar attempted to obtain a passport. When she arrived at the embassy she was shocked when she was told by a man named Ayaz that it was impossible to obtain a passport whilst seeking asylum. Ayaz offered her a meeting after Embassy closing time when he would give some advice on how he could help her as a personal favour. Maherwar, however suspecting something was amiss did not attend. Nor did she attend any meeting for the next three days despite texts and calls that assured her of his desire to help. However then Ayaz's mood changed and he threatened to get a permanent ban on a passport for Maherwar.

With what felt like no option left to her Maherwar decided to attend a meeting with Ayaz but sought the help of the BPCA who provided a chaperone who would keep a safe distance away and gave Maherwar an audio recording device. However on the day of the meeting Maherwar was told to enter the vehicle of Ayaz claiming he had fear for his safety as a Pakistani official. This caused great panic as our BPCA chaperone lost view of Maherwar. Ayaz took Maherwar to a bar for a drink which she refused and later to a disused flat. Throughout the recorded conversations Ayaz had with Maerwar, he kept asking her to be his friend telling her there was nothing to worry about despite her constantly bringing the conversation to the topic of her passport.

In the recording Ayaz slapped Maherwar, he tried to kiss her but was shoved so hard that he fell down. Then a loud scream can be heard as she unlocked the door to the flat she was in and ran to a lift where she screamed some more as she watched Ayaz draw nearer. Good fortune saw the lift shut before Ayaz arrived and Maherwar was able to escape to freedom outside. Read full story (click here)

After a concerted effort by the BPCA eventually the Pakistan Embassy agreed to interview Maherwar with a chaperone, so that an investigation into Sexual harassment in the workplace could be taken against Ayaz. However in the run-in to the interview Maherwar received death threats from embassy officials (click here). On the day of the interview BPCA paid for a whole day cab and bought Maherwar a new phone. Maherwar masked her face and then escaped from the embassy after her gruelling interview. She now has to wait a month for a decision on this investigation which she will hear form a secret location far from the watchful eyes and ears in Bangkok.

Maherwar's plight and Keri-Lynn's memory of a previous incident that occurred to Pakistani-Canadian at the Toronto consulate a few years ago (click here) triggered the passions of Keri-Lynn Gibbs a Canadian citizen who joined the BPCA campaign to save Maherwar. She has been trying to organize a sponsorship group to help Maherwar come to Canada and needs other like-minded people to join her. She organised Saturday's rally and asked Wilson Chowdhry our chairman to attend, and commissioned Artist Jenny McConnell to create a painting for the campaign. Jenny was so moved by young Maherwar's plight that she painted a campaign image that could be sold to raise funds towards this campaign helping Maherwar and other asylum seekers come to Canada. Volunteer Nicole Lucasik (pictured below) spent Thursday at Grant MacEwan University promoting the rally. Keri-Lynn spoke and Jenny presented the painting entitled "Breaking the Silence" at the "Peace Be Unto Her" held by Development & Peace on September 9th (click here).

Wilson Chowdhry with Nichole Lukasic MacEwan University

Key note speakers at the event include: Sherwood Park MP Garnett Genuis; Chairman of the BPCA Wilson Chowdhry; and Diversity Columnist, Keri-Lynn Gibbs.

Mr. Chowdhry has been touring across Canada speaking to churches and community groups about the grave conditions facing Pakistani asylum seekers in Thailand and the persecution that they fear in their homeland. He will also be in Red Deer October 2nd at The Centre (5301 50th Ave) at Calgary at the Encompass Partnerships location October 3rd 6:00pm to make presentation.

Wilson Chowdhry speaking at Kingdom Ministries Church in Toronto.

This year there has been a concerted effort by the Pakistani High Commission in Canada to launch a public relations campaign in the press claiming that religious minorities are not persecuted in Pakistan.

Pakistani High Commissioner, Nadeem Haider Kiani claims, “People belonging to all faiths including Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Ahmadis are living with complete freedom of worship. No one has been subjected to persecution on the basis of religion, race, or sect.”

Canadian Citizen and BPCA Volunteer Keri-Lynn Gibbs, said:

"Though we all wish what he said was true, his statement is incongruent with the reality of Maherwar Ishaq, Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih, and countless others whose stories are left unheard upon ears stopped with ignorance and wishful thinking."

She added:

"When I think of the violence suffered at the hands of neighbours, the kidnappings, gang rapes and forced marriages that are reported out of Pakistan; the Pakistani immigrants who remain fearful even in Canada; and the vulnerability of young women like Maherwar Ishaq whose scream rung out as she fled her pursuing attacker; We want these women to know that we believe them. We want all Pakistani religious minorities to know it too."

Alberta NDP Caucas members have expressed interest in attending the rally in support of Maherwar's courage stand against sexual assault, and MP Randy Boissonault's office has pledged to assist after a refugee application has been made. The problem remains that she still needs to hear from the UNHCR on whether they consider the incredible distress Maherwar has been through is worthy refugee status. In the meantime she must incur all the risk for her pursuit of justice, while her status remains in limbo while everyone seems to just wait and see.

Keri-Lynn Gibbs, "We need to stand with victims of such abuse, we can't leave them to stand alone."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said:

"Maherwar Ishaq has bravely pursued justice for her sexual harassment despite the frailty of her position as an illegal status as a visa overstayer in Thailand, albeit she holds UNHCR asylum seeker status.

"Like many Chrstians she had to flee her homeland with her family after her family were attacked and accused of a blasphemy - 15% of such allegations are made against 'unclean' Christians despite the fact they make up only 1.6% of the population.

"The sexual harassment incident she escaped througn her quick thinking, thwarted a potential sexual assault. It is estimated that 700 Christians girls are kidnapped raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year in Pakistan, a statistic that MUslim NGO 'Movement of Solidarity and Peace' reported in 2014 (click here). Many Christians believe the figure is much higher and rising.

"The threat on Maherwar is extremely high. Diplomatic officials had warned her stepbrother that if she attended the interview on 26th September 2017, for an investigation into Mr Ayaz's attack that she would be killed. Well she has now passed through that process.

"If she is not granted asylum this brave young woman may no longer be alive and we urge people to join us in solidarity with one of Pakistan's most brave citizens."

If you feel disgusted at the lecherous behaviour of a Pakistani Embassy official in Thailand, please sign our petition (click here). Please also encourage media groups to write about Maherwars plight.

Please email the Pakistani Embassy in Thailand and request justice for Maherwar Ishaq and immediate removal of sex pest Ayaz:parepbangkok@gmail.com

Please email the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan and ask them to keep women safe from Ayaz:
secretary@president.gov.pk and info@pmo.gov.pk

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