IoS Investigation

Abandoned in Pakistan by her British husband

A woman fights to be reunited with her son after alleging that her in-laws drugged her and dumped her back at her parents' home

The picture shows Aqila, aged 18, celebrating her marriage in front of relatives and friends. At the time she dreamt of coming to England for a happy, long life with her new husband and his family.

Two years later, the young bride is stranded in her village in Pakistan after, a court has heard, being drugged and forcibly taken back by her husband and father-in-law without her newborn baby. Aqila, 20, was dumped outside her parents' house in March without her passport and British visa, leaving her stranded with little hope of return, the High Court was told last week.

Her case highlights the plight of what is feared to be a growing number of women who come to Britain after marrying a British husband and are then abandoned back home without their children or immigration documents.

Lawyers hope that a ruling this week will expose the full extent of cases similar to Aqila's and force the authorities to recognise the need for action to prevent mothers from being separated from their children. Her solicitor has dealt with at least 50 cases and says this is a hidden abuse of women from overseas who marry British men.

Aqila, who speaks no English, was forced to plead with the judge to reunite her with her tiny son via video link last Wednesday after the Home Office refused to allow her into the country even to attend the hearing.

The court's Family Division must decide if Aqila was forcibly marooned in Pakistan in order to take her child or whether she willingly left him behind, stranded there because of an unfortunate set of unplanned events.

Justice Mary Hogg is expected to make a landmark ruling after Aqila's legal team presented her with six other cases that illustrate the plight of scores of women brought to the UK after arranged marriages and dumped back overseas when they have given birth or their husbands have tired of them.

If Mrs Justice Hogg identifies "abandoned spouses" as a phenomenon, it could help British courts to reunite scores of children with their mothers forced to fight lengthy legal battles.

Last Friday Mrs Justice Hogg took the unusual step of allowing partial identification of Aqila because of the "public interest" in shining a light on this hidden issue. Aqila's solicitor, Anne-Marie Hutchinson from Dawson Cornwell, has nine other "abandoned spouse" cases but has dealt with dozens more over the past five years.

Her barrister, Teertha Gupta, said: "We are asking the court to take judicial notice of these other cases and say something which will help young girls who find themselves in this situation. We hope also this will have a deterrent effect to stop families doing something without thinking it through."

Born in 1989 in a village in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir region of Pakistan, just yards away from her husband's ancestral home, Aqila was a bright woman who finished high school. As was her family tradition, her marriage was arranged between her own and her husband's extended families. She married her husband in March 2008 when she was 18.

Aqila came to live in the north of England in October 2008 on a spousal visa, valid until December 2010. She and her husband, who was her legal sponsor, needed to fulfil certain immigration procedures for her to stay here indefinitely. It never got that far.

Aqila alleges that her husband, mother-in-law and three sisters-in-law started to mistreat her within days of her arrival; they also took her passport. Her husband would become enraged when she challenged him when he stayed out until the small hours. She claims he would on occasion during arguments "pull her hair" and "beat her". The court also heard that she was treated like an "unpaid servant" by the four women in the house who also sometimes "bullied" and "beat" her. She was never allowed out unaccompanied and her phone calls were always monitored, all of which her husband and in-laws denied.

Her father-in-law told the court that although he spent very little time in the house Aqila was very happy. During cross-examination, Aqila's husband admitted that the marriage was "rocky" and that he found his wife "very demanding" and "unreasonable".

Within seven months of her arrival, Aqila was pregnant, and their son was born two months prematurely in January this year. The court heard that there was concern from doctors that Aqila may be unable to have more children. The family rejected suggestions by Aqila's barrister that this was the final trigger which led them to dumping her in Pakistan and keeping the baby. They also denied threatening to kill Aqila while she was pregnant.

Within weeks of the birth, three plane tickets had been bought for Pakistan: two return flights for husband and father-in-law, and a one-way ticket for the new mother. The family repeatedly told the court that Aqila had willingly left her two-month-old son in order to visit her own family for an indefinite period of time. Aqila insisted to the court that she had not wanted to go, especially without her baby, but was "given something" to drug her before the journey and then dumped outside her family home. Her husband and father-in-law left the country less than 48 hours after arriving. She has never seen or spoken to them again.

The husband's barrister, Nasra Butt, told the court that her client left Pakistan after making a snap decision that the marriage was over following a row with his wife's family, and that he never intended to leave her stranded without her documents. He claims to have posted his wife's passport, which included her visa, her ID card and the divorce papers he had obtained from a priest within hours of the row, to the British High Commission. The documents have not been seen since.

Aqila has a new Pakistani passport but the British High Commission has refused to supply her with a duplicate spousal visa which would allow her to fight this case in person. Mrs Justice Hogg drew attention to the difficulties involved in conducting the trial using video and telephone links. The UK Borders Agency insisted yesterday that all visa application involving child custody cases were "carefully reviewed".

In summing up Mr Gupta said: "Aqila was dependent on her husband's family for everything. The powerbase was with the family and open to abuse... This marriage was not working so this unsophisticated family decided to return her back to where they had found her because she had performed her role; she had produced a child, and so could now be disregarded."

Outside court Ms Hutchinson said: "We want guidance from High Court so that these cases are fast-tracked to determine as quickly as possible how mum ended up out of country, whether by choice or was she pushed or duped."

Speaking through a translator Aqila told The Independent on Sunday: "I spend my days praying and crying to God to let be with my son. That's all I want. I don't want to bring ill to my in-laws. I just want to be with my child. Without him I have nothing." The judge's ruling is expected this week.

The Timeline: Aqila's story: married, beaten, drugged, abandoned and separated from her child

July 1989 Born in Azad Jammu and Kashmir region of Pakistan.

October 2007 Family discuss marriage with British family who originate from same village.

March 2008 Marries at the age of 18.

October 2008 Arrives in England on a spousal visa to live with husband and his family.

January 2010 Gives birth to a son two months prematurely.

February 2010 Three flights bought to Pakistan, Aqila's is the only one-way ticket.

March 2010 Travels to Pakistan with husband and father-in-law. Both return in 48 hours, leaving her without a passport.

June 2010 Gets new Pakistani passport but is refused a duplicate visa. Participates in a week-long hearing. Husband's family agree to send her a photo of her son.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor