Parents kidnapped daughter to 'protect' her

A couple's attempt to smuggle their rebellious child to Pakistan ends in jail.
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The Independent Online
"THERE CAN be few cases, if any, where parents come before a court because they love their children too much," said defence counsel for Sekina Khan and Mohammed Bashir yesterday.

Few would be likely to agree that drugging one's daughter and smuggling her out of the country was a sign of love, but for the couple who clung to traditional ways and watched with horror as their daughter increasingly embraced a Western lifestyle, love meant that they felt they had to "protect" Rehana.

Her determination to live her life independently led to events last December when the couple drugged their daughter and took her to Manchester Airport, hoping to get her to Pakistan where they felt she would "settle down".

Mohammed Bashir and Sekina Khan worked long hours in the corner shop they owned in Bradford to raise and educate Rehana and her two younger brothers. But Rehana had felt under pressure at home to agree to an arranged marriage and, when she turned 20, she left home to study at Luton University. "From the beginning, there were the seeds of deterioration between the daughter and her parents," said Leslie Hull, prosecuting counsel.

For while Rehana was at university, it seemed her parents' worst fears were being confirmed. She started living with a young Asian man who was eventually jailed for drug dealing.

"Word got back to the parents and this increased the tension and distance between them and their daughter," said Mr Hull. "They disapproved and made that known to her. She responded by not visiting home or telephoning them. The parents made several visits to Luton to persuade her to come home to speak to them in January 1997. But there were arguments and it culminated in Rehana storming away in the family car."

There was talk within the family that if she could be persuaded to go to Pakistan she would be in a more stable environment and "hopefully see what was regarded as the error of her ways". Defence counsel Stuart Neal told the court that the couple's concern was for their daughter's safety and her education. "These parents have adopted the English tradition much more than many immigrant families do," said Mr Neal.

But Rehana flatly refused to go to Pakistan and the couple decided where persuasion had failed "more extreme measures" would succeed. In December 1997, they bought a ticket to Pakistan in Rehana's name and told their 17-year-old son they would be going away and he was to look after the shop.

Their opportunity came at Rehana's grandfather's funeral.

During the funeral, Rehana was handed a soft drink. Unbeknown to her, it had been spiked. The prosecution told the court: "She drank the drink, she began to feel dizzy then went to sleep. She was put in the family car and the parents, along with their 14-year-old son, drove to the airport."

At the airport, Rehana regained some of her senses and was told she was at the hospital. But she noticed an airline sign and realised she was not. "Once she realised she became distressed and angry and complained to airport staff. She collapsed and was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital," said Mr Hull. "In a police interview, both parents were adamant their actions were in their daughter's best interests."

The judge disagreed. Jailing both Bashir and Khan yesterday for two years and six months respectively, he said: "I am aware of your cultural and religious traditions, particularly with regard to arranged marriages. But clearly your daughter is a British citizen and is entitled to the protection of the law in this country.

The couple's actions have led to complete estrangement of daughter and parents.

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