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

(Photo: Reuters/Mohsin Raza)Members of the Pakistani Christian community hold candles during a protest rally to condemn Sunday's suicide attack in Peshawar on a church, with others in Lahore, September 23, 2013. A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the 130-year-old Anglican church in Pakistan after Sunday mass, killing at least 78 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in the predominantly Muslim country.

Ishaq says that they first stopped at a cafe where Ayaz told her that he was only doing a favor for her because they are "friends." After leaving the cafe, Ishaq says that Ayaz took her to a condominium complex. In the parking lot, Ayaz allegedly told her that they would need to go upstairs to finish the forms.

"She tells him she is uncomfortable and again, he assures her that she has nothing to worry about," the complaint reads, adding that Ayaz had told her days before the meeting that she was to tell no one about their planned meeting. "Before arriving at the condominium, Ayaz is heard warning [Ishaq] to keep her mouth shut, before saying 'if you open your mouth, I will beat you.'"

After reluctantly agreeing to go with him upstairs, they arrive at an under-furnished condominium, which she believes is not where he actually lives. Ishaq said that she and Ayaz then sat on a sofa and began the process of writing an affidavit that Ayaz claimed was necessary for the passport process.

"Over the course of several minutes the sound of the pen moving across the page is interrupted by his questions: 'Why aren't you smiling?'; 'Are you afraid of me?'; 'Would you like some juice?'" the complaint reads. "He offers her juice twice before his tone darkens the third time: 'Just take the juice. Otherwise, I will not do your work,' he says. BPCA believe this was an attempt to use a date rape drug on Miss Ishaq."

After Ishaq refused to drink the juice, she claims that Ayaz playfully pulled a cap off her head and put it on his own head, asking her how he looked. After receiving no response from Ishaq, Ayaz allegedly put the hat back on Ishaq's head and asked, "Why are you sitting so far away?"

According to the complaint, Ayaz insisted that she come closer and grabbed her hands. After Ishaq told him to leave her hands alone, Ayaz then tried to kiss her, which led to "a scuffle that can be heard on the recording."

According to Ishaq, she pushed Ayaz off of her and onto a bed, enabling her to run from the room.

Ishaq told CP through WhatsApp that she believes Ayaz tried to "rape" her. Although she escaped, she explained that she received about three calls from different numbers following the incident which she believes were attempts from Ayaz to reach her.

Since the incident, the BPCA has relocated Ishaq to a safe house.

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Bangkok has been in communication with BPCA to organize a meeting about the matter. In an email shared with CP, an embassy official said that the embassy "has taken a serious note of the complaint by Ms. Maherwar Ishaq as it is unprecedented."

"Therefore, a committee will conduct an inquiry into the matter and it includes one female member, Aqsa Nawaz, head of chancery, who will provide every possible mental and psychological relief to the applicant," the email states. "However, as per the rules of business, the inquiry committee can't conduct official meetings outside the embassy premises to probe the matter."

"Hence, it is emphasized again that Ms. Ishaq may be asked to approach the embassy directly or we may be provided her contact details so that the just be done after complete investigation," the email continued.

Although the embassy would like to interview Ishaq about the incident, the embassy, Ishaq and BPCA have not come to an agreement on whether the meeting will be held at the embassy or off grounds. Ishaq fears her life will be in danger if she returns to the embassy in Bangkok.

"Given the sensitivity of the charges, it is once again assured that Ms. Ishaq will be provided every possible assurance for her safety during the course of the investigation," the embassy added in its statement to CP.

BPCA has tried to organize a meeting with embassy investigators at a neutral location in which a protective officer with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees would be present as a chaperone. However, the embassy has refused to conduct a meeting outside of embassy grounds, said Chowdhry.

"We wrote to the Pakistan Embassy to seek a removal of the sexual predator who is working in their midsts and has to be viewed as a threat to any young woman seeking a passport, especially any vulnerable Christian. To my chagrin they are insisting they want to interview with Maherwar on their premises," Chowdhry added. "Despite several attempts to resolve this by agreeing to allow the interview at a neutral site where we convinced the UNHCR to provide a protective officer to act as a chaperone, the embassy is stubbornly refusing."

"We have explained that UNHCR have interviewed Maherwar within a week of her attack and that UNHCR have all the recordings of her interview and the incident recording, which they could obtain with her permission, but their stance has not changed," he continued. "The embassy respondent refuses to acknowledge the trauma and anxiety that Maherwar feels toward embassy premises, a place which has become a place of ultimate fear and nightmares."

"Maherwar and her family had to flee Pakistan after an attack by Muslim neighbors [who were] offended by the actions of an 8-year-old nephew," Chowdhry said. "Now she has narrowly survived what I believe was an attempt to rape her, foiled by her refusal to drink from the hand of a dangerous sexually deviant Pakistani official."

Pakistan ranks as the fourth worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List.

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