Christian Asylum Seeker Sexually Harassed by Pakistan Embassy Worker, Says Persecution Watchdog

(Photo: BPCA)British Pakistani Christian Association Chairman Wilson Chowdhry poses for a picture outside of the Embassy for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Bangkok, Thailand.

A 23-year-old Pakistani Christian asylum seeker in Thailand and a charity advocating on her behalf have accused an employee at Pakistan's Embassy in Bangkok of sexual harassment and maintain that he may have tried to drug and rape her when she met with him last year to renew her passport.

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Bangkok recently received a complaint from the head of the London-based British Pakistani Christian Association about an embassy worker in charge of issuing passports known only by the name "Ayaz."

The embassy worker is accused of using his position to try and get sexual favors from a Pakistani asylum-seeking woman named Maherwar Ishaq in exchange for a much-needed renewal of her passport that expired last March.

The complaint was obtained by The Christian Post and explains that Ishaq, whose family faced persecution in Pakistan and fled to Thailand in December 2013, needed to renew her passport last year so that she could legally apply for education courses, open bank accounts and work legally in Thailand.

As an asylum seeker, Ishaq and her family also needed the passports so they can avoid a delay in traveling to a country of refuge once their asylum applications with the United Nations are approved.

However, as BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry explained in the complaint, numerous Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand have complained that they are being refused passport renewals by the embassy even though the embassy previously assured Chowdhry that any citizen of Pakistan can renew their passport, even asylum seekers.

In an attempt to help Ishaq get her passport renewed, Chowdhry went with Ishaq to the Embassy in Bangkok last October and met with Ayaz. According to the complaint, Ayaz told them during the meeting that it is possible for Ishaq to get a passport but she needed to gather all the documents required to process the renewal.

Without Chowdhry, Ishaq returned to the embassy with the necessary documents and fees on Dec. 26, 2016, and asked to meet again with Ayaz. The complaint explains that although Ishaq was initially queued behind two people who were there before her to meet with Ayaz, she was selected before the other two to meet with him.

After asking Ishaq how she was doing and whether or not she had obtained the necessary identification card needed to process the passport, the complaint explains that Ayaz then told her in Urdu, "You look very beautiful today."

"Though she found the statement weird, Ishaq simply said 'thank you,'" the complaint explains, adding that Ayaz then asked for her cell phone number.

Ishaq gave him her cell phone number because she thought it was part of the application process. Ayaz then confirmed with Ishaq that she was the same person who visited his office in October with Chowdhry.

After Ishaq told him that she was the same woman, Ayaz was quoted as telling her: "Your passport cannot be made because you're an asylum seeker. But don't worry, I will make it for you but you will have to meet me outside of office hours. I am free from 4 p.m. Perhaps, we could meet in a cafe and discuss how I can push your application through the process."

The complaint explains that Ishaq then pressed Ayaz on why they could not take care of this matter inside the embassy.

"We cannot discuss this application in public [because] if people hear about it, your application will be refused," Ayaz allegedly told her.

Afraid that her passport would be refused, Ishaq didn't make a scene and left the embassy with no intention of meeting with Ayaz at 4 p.m.

Around 4 p.m. that day, the complaint states that Ayaz began texting her phone. After consulting with Chowdhry, it was agreed that it would be better to keep communication open with Ayaz if Ishaq wanted to get the passport.

"We kept the conversation as professional as possible, but he seemed insistent on trying to be personal with her," Chowdhry wrote in the complaint. "Several times within the conversations, Miss Ishaq brought Ayaz back to the matter of the passport and Ayaz gave assurances that he only wanted a meeting for this purpose. After a series of calls and WhatsApp messages, Ishaq agreed to meet with Ayaz, simply worried that he might block her passport application."

Thanks to a voice recorder she borrowed from a friend, Ishaq was able to record what was happening when she met with Ayaz outside of embassy grounds at a cafe at the Ambassador Hotel in Bangkok on Dec. 28, 2016. The same friend who lent her the recorder also acted as a lookout during the meeting.

"BPCA assumed that Ayaz had a crush and might offer a passport to Ishaq to try and curry favor," Chowdhry wrote in the complaint. "However, we did not predict the predicament that would ensue nor the danger that Ishaq would find herself in."

When Ishaq arrived at the hotel, she said that Ayaz was outside the hotel waiting for her to arrive. Ayaz is said to have told her to get into his vehicle. She asked why they could not meet inside the hotel cafe and Ayaz allegedly told her that his life was at risk at the hotel as an embassy staff member. He tried to reassure her that she was safe with him and she reluctantly got into the car.

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