Bangkok: June 7, 2017. (PCP) An embassy worker known only as Ayaz is being 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.
On 25th May 2017 British Pakistani Christian Association submitted a complaint against Ayaz. The complaint demands a full investigation of the incident stating this would be in the best interests of Maherwar Ishaq and for the safety of other women. BPCA have demanded 'the removal of a sexual predator amongst your employed staff'.
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Bangkok has been in communication with BPCA to organize a meeting about the matter. 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.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "I 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."
Mr Chowdhry has 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. Mr Chowdhry, further added:
"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."
In March 2016 Maherwar Ishaq a 23 year-old Pakistani Christian who has applied for refugee status with the UNHCR and her mother Theresa Nusrat visited your Pakistani Embassy in Thailand. They were seeking a new passport and were told that they could not apply for a passport for Pakistan as she was an asylum seeker.
The passports were desired for the purposes of identification so that the family could apply for educational courses, and open bank accounts. They also needed them so that they could avoid delay for travel to a country of refuge once successful with their asylum applications. Miss Ishaq was also hoping to obtain a visa for work in Thailand and wanted to use the passport to travel back to her homeland to get the legal work visa.
Separate to this many Pakistani Christians had complained of receiving similar treatment at the Pakistan Embassy.
In August 2016 Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) visited the Pakistan Embassy and received a confirmation from Third Secretary Kamran Dhangal that it was possible for any citizen of Pakistan to renew their passport.
He was also informed that no-one from the Embassy would decline Pakistani Christian asylum seekers as up until any moment that they relinquish their Pakistani nationality these asylum seekers would be deemed as full citizens. My Chowdhry was also advised that it is rare for any Pakistani refugee to relinquish citizenship. Mr Chowdhry was taken to a man called Ayaz who is responsible for passport issuing at the Pakistani Embassy he confirmed that Christian asylum seekers would be free to apply and took time out to describe many processes including an online application.
By October 2016 several further refusals to Pak-Christian asylum seekers led to a further visit to the embassy. Mr Chowdhry accompanied by Maherwar Ishaq spoke with Ayaz on October 21st and again received a confirmation that it was possible to apply for a passport. Ayaz explained what documents would be required and it was agreed that when Miss Ishaq got those documents together that she would apply for a passport.
On boxing day 2016 Miss Ishaq returned to the Embassy with all her necessary documents, having purchased a National Identity Card online, and also bringing her expired passport, a completed application form and the necessary fees. The application also required Miss Ishaq to provide her mother’s ID card and expired passport.
Maherwar asked to meet with Ayaz who she had met with Wilson two months earlier. She was put in a queue with 2 applicants ahead of her, however after sometime Miss Ishaq was for no reason selected before the two applicants before her and was taken to Ayaz’s office.
Ayaz met with Miss Ishaq and spoke cordially. He asked how she was and whether she had gained the ID card as advised during the October meeting with her and Wilson Chowdhry. Miss Ishaq replied by informing Mr Khan that she was fine and that she had received her ID card.
Ayaz then allegedly and rather bizarrely said: ‘You look very beautiful today’ [in Urdu]. Though she found the statement quite weird Miss Ishaq simply said ‘Thank You’
Ayaz then asked for her mobile telephone call number and thinking it was part of the application process Miss Ishaq gave him her number.
Ayaz then said: ‘You are the young woman who visited us in October with the young man from a charity’ (referring to Wilson Chowdhry), and Miss Ishaq replied ‘Yes I am.’
Ayaz then said: ‘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 form 4pm perhaps we could meet in café and discuss how I can push your application through the process.”
Miss Ishaq, said: “Why can we not discuss this at the Pakistan Embassy after all this is an official matter.”
Ayaz said: “We cannot discuss this application in public as if people hear about your application it will be refused.”
The comment scared Miss Ishaq, to avoid making a scene she said ‘That will be ok’ and she left saying goodbye to Ayaz.
Miss Ishaq had no intention of meeting at 4pm and simply went back home.
She did not arrive to the 4pm meeting and Ayaz started to text her asking why she had not arrived and attempting to fix an alternative time for a meeting.
Miss Ishaq spoke with me about the conversation she had with Ayaz but because she still needed a passport, it was agreed that communication would be kept alive with Ayaz, to prevent him from banning her passport.
We kept the conversation as professional as possible, but Ayaz seemed insistent on trying to be personal with her.
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 what’s app messages Miss Ishaq agreed to meet with Ayaz simply worried that he might block her passport application. Maherwar had previously failed to turn up at two meetings fearing the nature of Ayaz and his intent.
We decided to record the conversation during the meeting and obtained a secret recording device from a reporter friend which Miss Ishaq put in her purse. He also agreed to act as a look out for Miss Ishaq on the day of the meeting which was fixed for 28thDecember 2017.
BPCA assumed that Ayaz had a crush and might offer a passport to Miss Ishaq to try and seduce her. However we did not predict the situation that would ensue nor the danger that Miss Ishaq would find herself in.
The initial meeting was to be at 4pm on 28th December at Ambassador Hotel. However when Miss Ishaq arrived she was surprised to find Ayaz outside the hotel awaiting her arrival.
When she got there Ayaz told her to get into his vehicle and when Miss Ishaq asked why they could not simply have the meeting at the hotel’s café, she was told that as an Embassy staff member his life was at risk and they had to go to a designated place of safety. He tried to reassure her by saying that he was a Pakistani Embassy official so she would be safe and should have no fears. “Trust in God” he said to her her but Miss Ishaq was already praying.
Miss Ishaq got into the car despite concern for her safety knowing that our reporter friend was recording every word spoken and was following them discreetly.
They stopped at a cafe for juice where Ayaz again makes it clear that he is doing a special favor for her because they are "friends". When they leave the restaurant, Miss Ishaq asks whether they are going back to the hotel lobby to finish the forms and when they stop in the parking lot of a condominium, Ayaz tells her they will go up complete the forms and she can leave afterwards. She tells him she is uncomfortable and again, he assures her she has nothing to worry about.
In correspondence between Ayaz and Miss Ishaq in the days before Ayaz makes it clear that she is not to tell anyone about their meeting or what they have discussed. Before arriving at the condominium Ayaz is heard warning Miss Ishaq to “keep her mouth shut”, before saying “if you open your mouth I will beat you”
“Are you afraid of me?” Mr Khan asked.
Her answer is uneasy: “No, but I am thinking I may come back tomorrow” she says. Sitting together in his embassy-issued vehicle outside a condominium in central Bangkok Ayaz assures her: “We’ll go up, write the letter and you can leave. I am not that kind of person. I just want to help you.” Feeling pressured, she agrees. They take the elevator up to the 5th floor and walk down the hallway to room 55. The poorly-furnished and mostly empty condo gives her the impression that this isn't where he actually lives. The two move to the living room and sit on an old sofa where they begin the process of writing out an affidavit, which according to him, is necessary for her to have her passport replaced. 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?". 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]
She refuses; he stops writing. He reaches over and takes the red cap from her head and places it on his own: “How do I look” he asks. When she doesn’t respond he takes it off and places it back on her head; “That’s better,” he says. “Why are you sitting so far away? Come closer” he insists before reaching for her. He grabs her hands and she can be heard crying out: “Please, leave my hand”.
Ayaz tries to kiss her leading to a brief scuffle that can be heard on the recording. Miss Ishaq alleges that at this point she found energy in her adrenaline-filled panic and pushed Ayaz on his shoulders with all her might – the force of the impact propelled Mr Ayaz onto a bed. Miss Ishaq can then be heard screaming as she runs from the room.
Miss Ishaq can be heard screaming and praying in a lift before a door closes only moments before Ayaz gets to her. She runs out of the building where she is met by our reporter friend.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "The sexual harassment, abuse of power and threats of violence by Ayaz, an employee of the Pakistani Embassy, is an alarming poor indictment of the character of an official at the Pakistan Embassy in Thailand.
"Miss Ishaq has been severely traumatized by the incident she cried incessantly for four days after the incident. Since then she has avoided any travel in Bangkok that takes her close to the Embassy. She often has flashbacks of the incident which brings her to tears.
Maherwar Ishaq asked BPCA to submit an official complaint on her behalf, adamant that she will prevent Ayaz trying a similar ploy on other vulnerable Christian or other vulnerable women.
Miss Ishaq has since the incident blocked Ayaz from calling and sending her messages and has relocated from her current address for her safety, as her original address was disclosed at the Pakistan embassy. Her relocation has been funded by the British Pakistani Christian Association.
BPCA are asking people of good conscience to write to the Pakistan Embassy in Bangkok to convince them of the need for empathy towards Maherwar Ishaq. Unless they budge on their insistence to hold their interviews on their premises a sexual predator will be allowed to continue working at their offices. We are also calling for the immediate removal of Ayaz from his official post while the inquiry takes place. You can email the embassy using this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have set up an appeal that will pay for safe relocation of Maherwar Ishaq in a building where no other Pakistanis reside. The cost of this is around £200 a month and if you would like to help Maherwar stay in safety you can contribute by (clicking here). We are also attempting to get Maherwar a student visa in Thailand for which the total cost would be £2000. This would allow her to live free of fear of a return to Pakistan or arrest in Thailand.