A LITTLE ABOUT BPCA?

Our vision is to create a network of Pakistanis united in Christ, focused on better quality of life, fellowship and religious freedom for Christians in Pakistan and the UK.

CONTACT INFO

“One of the lucky ones” Lara Hall shares account of her escape from on-line groomer and rapist in Pakistan

img

On a warm evening on Saturday 16th February 2019 Lara Hall an on-line grooming survivor who escaped the clutches of her captor and rapist Sajjad Khan from Pakistan shared her account at Catch the Fire Ministries Church in Melbourne.

Please sign our petition (click here)

Her story has been ignored by Australian news programmes despite the clear and present danger it poses on vulnerable women in the country, though extensive coverage across mainstream publications across the globe warns other potential victims of the dagers of social media.

Lara is being supported by BPCA and we intend to launch a criminal prosecution against rapist Sajjad Khan and are in the process of appointing a solicitor. In the meanwhile we include a full video recording of Lara Hall's account of her ordeal and ask people to share this as widely as possible.




“One of the lucky ones”

 
Hi my name is Lara Hall and I want to convey my thanks and regards to all of you for coming here to listen to myself, Wilson Chowdhry chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) and Nissar Hussain, a remarkable apostate who transcended extraordinary odds.
I wanted to thank Pastor Daniel Nalliah for inviting us and the whole Catch the Fire Ministry.
This isn’t easy for me to come here and make myself vulnerable and tell you my story and inside I am shaking but I am doing this in order to raise awareness about people who go through similar situations to mine so that no woman is left behind.


I am a survivor of international grooming, sexual assault, kidnap, abuse and starvation in Pakistan. I managed to get my safe exit from Pakistan after months of extreme hardship on the 15th of October last year. I will never forget the day that I held freedom in my hands after months of torment against extraordinary adversity set against a landscape of pain, sadness, loss, and now I have the desire to rise again – the quintessential phoenix rising from the ashes not just for myself but for every woman who is a victim of international grooming and other crimes committed abroad.


When I was sitting down to write this speech I happened upon a pertinent quote by Pearl S. Buck, her words articulate my sentiments around my experience


She said:     

None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.
—Pearl S. Buck
 
So let’s step back a few paces, where does my Pakistan journey begin? Well back in circa 2012 I was on a train with a woman and out of the corner of my eye I noticed she appeared to be very visibly upset. Due to my empathetic nature, I approached her and I asked her if she was okay. She explained she was from Pakistan and that she felt lonely, isolated and depressed. She was perpetually failing her IELTS test (the test required to remain on her visa) and the only two people she had with her in Australia were her brother and his wife, Arshad and Faiza. In Pakistan, family is a very important thing. I offered to teach Rehana english and a bond emerged therein.


Over time I became close to the family. I was an honorary member – I was invited over for dinner, when they would return to Pakistan they would always bring back gifts, especially nice dresses and jewellery. I felt loved and adored. Sure there were some red flags early on especially when Rehana mentioned that I should have a green card marriage with her brother, Mithan but her demonstrated perceived contrition over time caused me to aspire to forgive her. I thought, we are human maybe it was a mistake from a person desperate to have her brother over here.


In roughly 2013 I was on a Skype call to some family members based in Lahore and that is when I was first introduced to a man named Sajjad. He claimed to be a lawyer and took interest in my legal studies (at that time I was enrolled to study law at the University of Notre Dame) so it seemed like a natural way to segue into my life. The two of us spoke intermittently over the years and I came to trust him and his family who were always so seemingly empathetic, understanding and loving.


Family is important to everybody. I am going to be very honest with you and admit that I did not grow up in a white picket fence house with loving parents. Unfortunately our house was not the Brady Bunch household by any stretch.
I grew up in a highly dysfunctional house where being abused almost seemed like the ‘norm,’ and I desperately craved love, attention and belonging. My mother and father broke up when I was about one years old and he absconded all of his parental duties while my mum stuck around with her many hideous partners to cause a lifetime of pain. She would tell me and my beautiful twin sister Amy who is amongst us tonight that we were mistakes, should not have been born, she didn’t love us. She was constantly threatening to kick us out. She would beat us. I remember I had to watch her beat my sister many times, even with a wooden spoon over my sister’s nose. Amy put her hand on the wall and I vividly remember the blood from my sister’s wound dripping down.


I often contemplated suicide because I felt a great meaninglessness to life. And it was only upon discovering my passion for writing, the law and helping people and animals that I felt that maybe these aforementioned concerns were something I had to deal with. In any case, the legacy of this emotionally tumultuous childhood is that I suffer with OCD, depression, anxiety, and PTSD – all very common ailments but often veiled with a stigma and I hope in telling my story I am somehow able to cast a light on these illnesses, eschew some of the myths around mental illness and bring mental health out of the shadows. Let me be unequivocally clear; It is not shameful to suffer with any mental illness.


Despite the aforementioned challenging upbringing, I was determined to make something of myself. After graduating high school I threw myself into my studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Tasmania and a Bachelor of Laws with Honours at the University of Notre Dame, Australia. I was bestowed with countless accolades. I was an entrant to the prestigious Golden Key Society. I wanted to make something of myself. However it isn’t always that easy to eschew the clutches of a difficult childhood. Around 2016 and 2017 I had a burgeoning legal career and everything seemed to be going incredibly well when all of a sudden my mental health collapsed and I was hospitalised and rendered incapacitated for some time. It was at this time that I was particularly vulnerable to Sajjad and his family’s grooming. I needed people to make me feel less alone in my upward battle to save my mental health.


Groomers often identify a person’s weaknesses and prey on these to gain a foothold in the person’s life. Sajjad and his family not only groomed me but they also groomed my sister, my nan and my friends. If you had asked me a year and a half ago what I thought of Sajjad I would have told you he was an angel descended from heaven who aspired to help me.



He made many false promises telling me that I would have a safe and happy life if I ever gave him the chance and visited him in Pakistan. I am sure he must have been a very happy lion sitting in his lair awaiting my entrapment as I fell prey to all of his lies. He told me he would get me the best care, support and treatment for my mental health because he knew many doctors who could render medical assistance. He forged counterfeit documents and alleged to have purchased a Spanish Villa and he presented many images of this fake house to lull me into the belief that my life would be nice if I ever travelled to Pakistan. He stated initially that I would be living with just two to three people in a house in Cantt, Lahore and then if I was happy with him and happy with Pakistan I could move into the house he had purchased. I made it clear that due to my OCD I could not live in a joint family system with multiple people because I sometimes find so many people in a claustrophobic environment trigger. He assured me I would only be living with one or two people. He assured me I would not be required to convert to Islam. He told me I would be free to walk around – he even mentioned a white girl whom he believed to be of German descent walking freely without any hijab in the market place. He claimed that any reports on the status of women in Pakistan were fraught with bias. I would be allowed to have friends, I would be free to interact with people as I wished, I would have no rules/controls imposed on me.


The trust that I acquired for him was bolstered by the fact that my sister came to trust him and that I was in constant contact with his Sydney based relatives who lived a mere ten minutes from me.


After many years of grooming me and lulling me into a false sense of security, he invited me in April last year to Lahore, Pakistan with a dual purpose (a) to attend the wedding of his younger brother Farooq and (b) to get to know whether Sajjad and I were compatible. I embarked on my Pakistan journey and arrived in Lahore on April 23. I was on a thirty day tourist visa.


I was initially accosted by the fact that his house was not the way it should be and that rather than 2 or 3 people living with us, we had a whole colony, circa 20 people living in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. He stated initially that they were just there for the wedding and then when they didn’t leave I queried this and he said “they just moved in for your mental health.” Given that he had never talked about this with me, I found this to be quite confronting from an honesty and transparency perspective. I began to quiz members of the family and the answers always differed as to how long they had been there. Then he would gas light me “its just their poor english.” I was so confused. Then the property he had allegedly purchased also he was forced to admit was a lie. I felt like such a fool this person I had uprooted my entire existence for was a total fraud – a con artist. I initially wondered if I could change him – my whole world, my ideal of who I thought this person to be was quickly unravelling. I found it initially quite hard to absorb this and would try to make things work. I would try to have fun with the family. I could not comprehend the devastating reality that they were all totally fraudulent. I had been lured all the way to Pakistan by a refined groomer. I tried to make it work at times by trying to engage with them, be nice to them, teach english to the children, but I increasingly could not tolerate the disparity between the image I had been presented with and their macabre reality. My story was beginning to take shape like the very famous movie based on a true story not without my daughter – in this story based on the true events of a mother and her daughter Mahtoob, an American woman assents to visiting Iran with her husband believing he will let them leave and not convert them to Islam. However once she arrives she becomes very much entrapped and has to plan a rather bold and tenacious escape from his clutches.


By the time that my new reality had all sunk in and I had established what a colossal liar he was my visa had lapsed, my flight had been cancelled, my wallet and passport were taken. Where do I turn? What do I do? I was told my visa situation would be remediated. There was always a reason why it wasn’t renewed. They were always working on it. But until it had been fixed I could not go out alone or I would arrested. I was told not to call my consulate, embassy or the interior ministry because they “could trace me” and track me down and I’d be jailed. I was told every time I went out even accompanied I risked imprisonment and I’d go to jail and be tortured by corrupt police officials. I began to dwell in 24/7 fear of my life. It dawned on me I was not a free woman at liberty to do as I wish, rather I had been trapped in the lion’s den. On the one hand I hand I had to pretend everything was okay and on the other hand I had to figure out a way to extricate myself from an increasingly precarious situation. I was constantly reminded that I was in Pakistan now. I was reminded that I had no power, no voice, no rights. I was also constantly reminded that I was different – I was a “gori” (Urdu word for foreigner) and I was furthermore inferior because I was a woman.


I didn’t realise it to begin with but Sajjad was cutting off my access with the outside world and my freedoms from the beginning. On very rare occasions I was “allowed” out and if I would see a woman walking freely I would be told I didn’t see it or that she must just be a beggar – no woman of any stature goes out without her male guardians. He was shutting doors on me before I even had a chance to fully appreciate the colossal nightmare that I had found myself in. Increasingly the abuse began and I was subject to extreme sexual abuse not just by Sajjad but also many attempts to rape me by his brother, Nadeem. I was starved sometimes for up to 14 hours in a day to the point that I was so dizzy I could barely stand and I was just begging for food. I was deprived of feminine hygiene products at times for no other reason that to dehumanise me further and leave me feeling filthy. He also locked all my clothes up and only gave me new/clean clothes every four days upon severe begging. Every little thing I begged for. Not only was I living with a total fraud, I was living with a psychopathic, narcissist and his equally nefarious family who defended his behaviour. I remember I would take them to task on the bad behaviour and they would call him a ‘prince’ who is beyond reproach and should never be challenged on anything. I was often left flabbergasted by ‘family meetings’ where it was made clear to me that I was not entitled to challenge Sajjad.


I was constantly subject to extreme verbal abuse. I kept many recordings and many people have been made palpably ill by hear recordings of him scream at me, nullify me, and constantly subjugate me to his will. He also made some confessions on recordings. All these recordings are currently with our lawyers as we build a case.


I was a sex slave, a prisoner, and mostly definitely not a person with equal rights. There were numerous attempts to force me into Islamic marriage known as a “nikkah” and convert me which would have brought under true legal subjugation and I would have had limited recourse against his tyranny.

As it was my avenues for escaping this situation were quickly disappearing. I was walking on constant egg shells. I will recount a few specific incidents but please understand that speaking about these events is not easy. I vividly recall an occasion when I was vomiting and sick and keeled over and he thought it was absolutely hilarious to come up behind me and attempt to rape me. I still remember the cacophony of his laugh as he preyed upon me – he often told that I was under his roof and therefore under Islamic law I owed him sex because he was the boss and I was his possession and he was providing for me.


One time I had left some residual shampoo in my hair, he forcibly grabbed me telling me I was an idiot and dragged me into the bathroom and told me that I was so stupid. He began slamming my head aggressively into the basin as he washed the shampoo out and made me feel that I was utterly stupid for this.


He would often make me present myself naked after a shower like some piece of meat at the meat market. He would come into the bathroom when I was on the toilet to shout at me. He would grope me, grind on me, he would throw chairs at walls to frighten me, he would loom over me with a giant fist to remind me that he was way more powerful than me.


The brother Nadeem also did sexually terrible things and although he never succeeded in raping me he certainly made numerous attempts and when I told Sajjad and his sister Noureen about it their response was one of nonchalance. Sajjad said you are showing him your weakness by being sad at your state of affairs therefore it’s acceptable that he is taking advantage of you.


The whole family one day launched at the maid and began attacking her. I recorded the audio of the fight it was one of the most heinous acts of violence against a woman that I have ever seen. I knew I was amongst savages not human beings.


He would throw chairs at walls. Shake his fist above me. Other members of the family would hurt me like one time Shayyan drove past me into the house on his bike and lashed his foot out to kick me into the wall.


Although most of the house came to hate me, it ramped up a notch to the point that most of the house didn’t talk to me, excluded me, mocked me when I tried to approach them about serious matters like when I smelt a leak they laughed that this white girl was trying to speak to them – stupid gori.


Increasingly desperate and despite my fears about my lapsed visa and my fear that any form of authority would harm me (a fear that Sajjad perpetually reinforced with comments like “you will be thrown in jail if you ever call upon help from your embassy or the interior ministry”), I decided that I needed to formulate an escape plan. I began to call the Australian consular services and I told them I was afraid and that I needed to know if they could trace my call. They didn’t seem supportive and seemed frustrated by my questions which made me feel more isolated. It was like they were not trained in red flag situations. I called upon various local organisations including the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women. They confounded my isolation, imprisonment, and made me feel that nobody could help me. Despite me explicitly explaining to them that I was in an abusive, violent situation and I was a prisoner who could not get out they said in a very nonchalant way that I would have to just pop in an Uber and come see them, there was nothing they could do for me.


I then called a number of local charities. I got onto one charity which I wont name and was initially quite buoyed by their response they said they would help me but abandoned me to my own devices. I contacted the Australian government again and was once again profoundly let down. Despite my fears of being imprisoned by local police which was a real risk they sent me a generic response to my concerns asking me to surrender myself to police as if I was the criminal. No help was offered. Negligently they even failed to annex their Charter of Services and I had to request it again. They most certainly didn’t explain it and the response was essentially you’re at the mercy of the Pakistani authorities. Quite clearly my problem was not an Australian government problem it was my own issue.


I felt fed to the lions. I was devastated. My own government did not seem to care that I had been groomed into going overseas by people I thought I knew for six years, I had been trapped in their house, sexually, physically, emotionally assaulted and effectively kidnapped and kept against my will.


I lived in a state of total fear. Given my mental health issues I felt truly alone and didn’t know what to do. I realised that there was a great chance I wasn’t going to get out of this place alive. Feeling totally scared and abandoned by my own government, I realised that I would have to help myself. I adopted a rather bold and dangerous strategy but I didn’t feel like I had any other option, doors were quickly shutting in my face and with my visa situation, I was quickly heading onto the black list where you are liable to be jailed for overstaying too long. I decided boldly to network with perfect strangers online. I knew I would have to network with influential people who would be more powerful than Sajjad because he made it quite clear that he was way more powerful than me.


I began to google who the powerful people were that may have the relevant connections to get me my safe exit. I would encrypt my phone and all its apps. I would change the password almost daily. I managed to retrieve my passport and wallet and once I did I kept these hidden and on my person at all times. I made many connections but there was always a risk – it is always risky to network with perfect strangers online! I identified a Dr Kaiser Rafiq who was a business man who works in both England and Pakistan. He is the legal advisor the the ruling family in Dubai. He own a military complex in Lahore, and a host of other businesses. When I reached out to him we built some rapport and he did his due diligence on me ascertaining that indeed I was a girl in need. At that time he was in the UK and told me to wait until the 30th of August and he would engage the head of the army, police, etc to extract me from the clutches of my groomer and his malevolent family.


We surreptitiously plotted my escape for weeks and I would often just wait by my phone to hear news about how we would do all of it. I managed to reacquire my passport and wallet which had been kept from me in Noureen, the sister’s drawer, and once I did I kept them 24/7 hidden either under the mattress of my bed or in some other well hidden placed. Although my planned date of exit was the 30th of August, 4 days prior I became extremely terrified for my life. I noticed that Sajjad had blue-toothed his phone with my and I became paranoid that this meant that he was privy to all of my escape plans and that my cover was gone. I began googling what it meant – did this mean he had seen all my escape plans? Did this mean my life was in imminent danger? Google didn’t seem to have a solid answer. I was thus forced to interface directly with my abuser and confront him on why the phones were blue toothed.


I bravely sparked up the courage to ask him why they were blue tooth and he pretended it wasn’t his phone and I asked to see his device and he was scrolling very quickly through things on it. I noticed he had somehow acquired some photos of me that I were graphic – a total invasion of my privacy. I truly understand how sick this individual was. I wondered where these photos had come from, had he taken them himself, I felt so sick in my stomach like the wind had been taken out of my sails. In desperation I begged him to delete them. He became increasingly irate and said that instead of deleting them he would delete me. I took these words to constitute a threat against my life.


I remember backing away slowly as he raged and then quickly turning and running heart palpitating, body sweating up the large marble stair case – I had arrived at the dramatic denouement and I had to make a choice about what to do. I knew that I could not wait until the 30th when Dr Kaiser Rafiq would arrive. I needed in fact to leave today. I double bolted the door and quickly sent voice messages and texts to Dr Rafiq who initially did not respond. When he did he assured me that it would be safe to go to the police and that he would manage it. With shaking hands, I dialled the local number for the police authorities ’15,’ and awaited my fate as a crazy man took turns oscillating between trying to bang the door down and trying to pretend that I was safe to exit my room by sending by sweet texts like “its okay come out I want to watch a movie” and “I’ve left chai at your door.” I did not buy the false promises that I was safe and furthermore I could not stand another day under his tyranny. Hence despite my avid fears, despite not knowing what would happen to me under police care, I chose to embrace the uncertainty.


I Whatsapped the police my number and they kept calling over the period of one hour. I would take the call in the corner of the bedroom because I knew all of Sajjad’s family were trying to listen to what I was doing. I was just willing the police would come soon. I was just praying that I would get out alive. When finally the police texted me that they were at my door they asked me to please assure them I had the correct residence. With great fear I quickly unbolted the door and at that time the coast was clear and went the balcony, put my head over and gave the police officials the thumbs up. I saw that the streets were awash with police vehicles in all varieties and what appeared to be 30 or 40 police officers with large guns and big boots. The streets had also begun to swarm with curious neighbours who had come out to see the spectacle. I locked myself back in my room and Sajjad, obviously taken aback, knocked on my door and said with fear in his voice “Lara, did you call the police?” I initially pretended that no I didn’t I don’t know what you’re talking about. I acted dumb. And then I said “oh maybe a friend I have did.” I could see the avid fear in his eyes. How much of my plans he knew I will never know but I can tell you he was quite taken aback that a girl under his imprisonment and control would have the wits let alone the gaul to defy him. He said “Lara, quickly go down and tell them you have OCD and you just had a panic attack.” I said “no I don’t think so.”


At that time I looked like an absolute mess because I’d been wearing four day old clothes. He was truing to manage the situation and find at least one nice dress for me to wear so I looked human and not like a victim of months of terror. He himself changed into something nice and I saw him trying to manage everything. He was pointing to his head to try to illustrate that I was just crazy. Dr Kaiser Rafiq got on the line and told the police my story. Told them my horror and that I needed to leave with them tonight. The police were largely quite good with me. Because it was an all male force they brought in a female neighbour who spoke english and she sat beside me hugging me while I was upset and I remember whispering into her ear “these people are cruel please get me out of here don’t let me stay.” The police after ascertaining that Sajjad was not to be trusted asked me “what do you want to do?” I said that I would like to go to the station with you. On the way to the station I could see the whole Khan family getting on their bikes in hot pursuit – it was truly a scene from a movie. When I got to the station the police treated me well….



  • Food

  • Khans still trying to manage and intimidate me

  • I told the police that I would defer legal action until I had appropriate legal advice

  • I was conveyed into the car of Dr Kaiser Rafiq and taken to the military complex known as AFHOS or the Falcon complex in Gulberg

  • Although I didn’t sleep very well that night I felt somewhat emancipated and I was so glad to at least be out of that house but my troubles were far from over.


Sajjad immediately cut off my phone, a claim he denies but the service provider claimed that it was severed. Please stop believing this individual. I assure you I have countless records of his lies, recordings of his abuse and I am composing a case against him which I will discuss later.


I continued to call the Australian consular services telling them about how scared I was. Amy kept up a false friendship with Sajjad to game him and see what was tinkering in his mind – as usual he was spurting false promises like buying her stuff. She let him ramble. He loves to be adored and told wow, you’re so amazing. She would report back to me on all occasions about what a crazy man he is. He told her he had hired investigators to track me and that they needed to work together to keep me safe because he had evidence the people I was with wanted to human traffic me. He sent a report in Urdu to Amy stating this was alleged evidence of the people I was with and their intention to human traffic me so I needed to keep her informed of all my movements so that he could take care of me. This was a huge fear tactic and I called upon the Australian government to help – repeatedly Amy and I called upon consular services to render help to me as my abuser continued to track me and I faced imprisonment for overstaying. Many times they ignored me and my continued cries for help. I began to form the opinion that these were just decorated government officials who process lost and stolen passport applications and are not willing to help out in cases involving kidnap, sexual assault, violence, the risk/threat of human trafficking, etc. I just felt they were documenting my terrifying ordeal nonchalantly without acting on anything. It was very clear to me my own government had abandoned me in Pakistan.


I stayed at the AFOHS complex for circa two weeks and I would like to warmly thank all the staff at AFOHS who came to love me and care for me. I then moved to be with another friend I had made online, Raphay, who has become one of my best friends. When I came under his care I was an absolute mess of PTSD. I couldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t sleep properly, I couldn’t function properly. He had to take great care of me. He had to make my meals. He would comfort me when I was crying. He would make me laugh even in the darkest of hours. He would brush my hair when I was too depressed to function. He would lift me up and tell me how smart, kind and wonderful I was. That Sajjad didn’t get to cut my butterfly wings. He never mistreated or harmed me in any single way and today we remain extremely warm friends who talk all the time. Thank you Raphay for having my back during my hour of need and for showing me there are many good people in Pakistan


At that point my visa issue was still unresolved but I found out through the Interior Ministry that my date for black listing (when you can be liable to imprisonment) was to be the 18th of September. Raphay desperately tried to identify connections within the Interior Ministry. He had contacts in other portfolios but nobody who would help make it easier for us with the Interior Ministry but the Lahore office assured us that the Interior Ministry in Islamabad would listen to me and would give me time to explain my situation and likely waive any overstay fines. So on the 17th of September Raphay and I embarked off on a very long road trip to Islamabad and we stay with some of his contacts in Rawalpindi. Even when in Islamabad I made a desperate call to the Australian government telling them I was in distress and could be jailed. Raphay and I both begged them to meet with me. I was crying and begging please please meet with us I am terrified but once again they said they did not have time for me and that I could take safe refuge in their vicinity – they respected the sovereignty of Pakistan and I would have to figure it out myself. Negligently they did not inform me of the small emergency grant program that could have helped me.


Anyway we went to the Interior Ministry and even though the Lahore office assured us they would listen to me, they were so rude, they threatened me with imprisonment and it was only through repeated pleading that they backed down and agreed to give me a short grace period of ten days to pay my overstay fine and a month in total to raise the funds to leave Pakistan and return home.


Pakistan’s Interior Ministry was extremely uncooperative and completely lacked empathy. They refused to listen to anything that I had to say. When I explained to them that I did have the resources to fund my fees an officer within the high ranks of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry shouted at me that I was wasting his precious time and he had better things to do and that I should get out of his office immediately. This was one of the most dehumanising that I come across in my life. Without any support from my own government, I was forced to start a Go Fund Me and I want to thank everyone who contributed directly or sent money via paypal and helped me in other ways.


I want to thank Wilson Chowdhry and the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) for coming to my aid and helping me with any excess fees, helping me then and now with counselling, my living costs as I struggle to make ends meet and showing me warmth and kindness. Wilson Chowdhry and the British Pakistani Christian Association are also now fully behind me in seeking justice and we are in the process of appointing a legal team. Wilson Chowdhry will be my Power of Attorney and we are selecting the best, most qualified team in Lahore to represent me and to make a statement that no woman should suffer what I did.


Further in a BPCA initiative led by me we have commenced a petition online entitled Lara’s Amendment can you all please sign this to place pressure on the Australian government to work with us to ensure no other Australian is left behind. Danial Nalliah can give you a link to this and we have been meeting with very high diplomatic officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) who have accept culpability in prolific failings. I have countless emails and communications which demonstrate that they profoundly let me down. However we are now forward focused and they invited us to talk with them again to approve/discuss any changes. DFAT have been very cooperative with us so far but its important we continue to place pressure on all relevant government officials, agencies and ministers to compel change.


On Wednesday Wilson and I met with very senior DFAT official and we presented the following recommendations, some of which they have gotten behind (some fall beyond their domain but we will identify the appropriate authorities/people to help). Lara’s Amendment, an initiative calls for the following changes:


IV: Recommendations

  1. Improved training for consular staff on sexual assault, mental health, grooming and abuse.

  2. Establishing a call centre manned by volunteers who can call this service not only for counselling and reassurance as a liaison between them and the consulate, high commission, and other diplomatic services on the grounds of statutory authorities. This call centre will be empowered to provide small emergency grants to help with the escape (BPCA will help raise funds for this purpose particularly where people are struggling to repay loans).

    We recommend the call centre be called Safe Exits International. There is a precedent for this, victims of domestic crime can turn to the group VOCAL to act as a liaison but there is hitherto no international equivalent. This call centre would give advice to people travelling overseas, would help be a liaison to any person like myself dissatisfied by consular help overseas, and would provide counselling during and after any grooming experience.

  3. Victims of crime compensation to extend to victims of international crimes including what IO experienced which is grooming, kidnap, rape, abuse and the fear of human trafficking

  4. Adjustments to the current Smart Travellers guidelines to clearly advise on the risks of human trafficking, grooming, mental health etc
  5. Adjustments to the Consular Services Charter to include reference to cases of human trafficking and grooming because we could not identify any references to these matters

  6. Grooming legislation to deal with domestic and international cases of grooming [find template]

  7. Continual dialogue with me, the BPCA and DFAT to re-assess and evaluate the effectiveness of changes and maintaining longitudinal data to ensure a sound accountability infrastructure and where changes are needed in future, a panel should be composed with Lara and BPCA involved to assess the viability of these proposed changes

  8. I would be at the helm of drafting this legislation. I am a qualified lawyer. I obtained an Honours Degree and was in the highest 30 students at the University of Notre Dame Australia and was the recipient of countless honours and awards. I am also looking to enrol in a masters or PhD program focusing on human rights law so that I can be at the forefront of heralding in some very positive changes.

Right now as I build my case and face the terrifying prospect of having to return to Pakistan (I have been told this will be obligatory) to seek justice not just for me but for all women caught up in grooming violence, I just want to say I really need you. I cannot do this alone. Right now as I push through my own trauma and PTSD to be the light in the darkness for other women I need your love, I need your compassion and I need your support. One voice might not be loud but if we raise our voice in concert against disturbing evils in this world, we will be a chorus so loud that we cannot be stamped out even by the most evil and invasive of forces. Please stand with me. Please hold my hand as I try to do something bold and brave even at the risk of my own life so that I can make a difference.


We are also in the process of acquiring charitable status in Australia for the British Pakistani Christian Association. We opened a bank account yesterday and we are getting our trustees to sign off on it then we will apply for charitable status. Once we have charitable status there are so many people we can help – persecuted Christians, the next blasphemy victim, vulnerable people of any faith, the next grooming victim, countless refugees stuck in detention centres including in Thailand IDCs who desperately need our help and cannot return to situations of persecution. We need to ensure that Australia has robust laws that protect against the burgeoning grooming gangs phenomenon and addresses it appropriately. We need to ensure that Australia does not become a hotbed of extremist ideological view points which perpetuate this kind of grooming culture. We must not allow our culture which respects women to be usurped by cultural views and values which subjugate women.


I also note Catch the Fire Ministries and Daniel nalliah’s avid desire to ensure the repeal of section 18C of the Religious and Racial Tolerance Act (2001) a provision they were sued under in a landmark case. I would like to find ways the myself, Wilson and the whole of the British Pakistani Christian Association can help abrogate these blasphemy like laws.

Thank you for listening to me and hearing my voice.

I want to remind you that I am one of the lucky ones. Many women do not survive horrendous situations. The British Pakistani Christian Association is working on the case of missing Scottish woman Allison MacDonald who went missing under mysterious circumstances. That could have been me. We owe it to her family to try to find her. We owe it to other female victims to take a strong and bold stance against behaviour which threatens women’s welfare.


In closing I want to finish with a quote by prominent authoress Virginia Wolf, she is one of my favourite authors she wrote that “For most of history anonymous was a woman”
– well let me tell you I will never allow a vulnerable woman to feel anonymous again.
Thank you to Catch the Fire ministries for hearing me out it has not been easy to share my story. Thank you to Wilson Chowdhry and the BPCA for breathing live once again into my broken soul. Thank you to the Australian government for slowing opening your hearts and minds to my cause. Thank you to everyone who has been there with me on this painful journey. Please remember it always darkest before the dawn.

Please sign our petition (click here)

 

comments powered by Disqus