MONTREAL: Khurshid Begum Awan wants to remain in Canada claiming that Lahore is not safe for Shia Muslims
A Montreal woman is pleading with Immigration Canada to allow her mother to stay in Canada.
Khurshid Begum Awan has been living in a Montreal church for a year to avoid being deported to Pakistan, but a heart condition has now forced her to be admitted to hospital.
“When I went to the immigration officer, he told me you have to respect the law, I said, ‘Okay I will respect the law.’ But when they said, ‘We’re going to send your mom back,’ that I have no answer (for) so I said okay,” said Awan’s daughter Tahira Malik, through tears, at a news conference Monday.
Awan first came to Canada with her husband in the spring of 2011
Their refugee claim was rejected. Her husband was deported to Pakistan in 2013 but Awan’s deportation was postponed, because doctors determined she was too ill to leave the country.
Last fall, Awan took refuge with the Anglican Church of Montreal.
Bishop Barry Bryan Clarke of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal said they were told they were breaking the law but felt there were few other options.
If Awan is sent back, her family said she won’t receive the medical care she needs and she will be targeted for being a Shia, a Muslim minority.
“Lahore, which used to be a place in the past where you could get some peace, is now a place which is a centre of extremism. There’s very serious violence in the past two years,” said immigration lawyer Stewart Istvanffy.
A decision in the case may take up to a year, as Awan is treated in hospital.
If Awan’s application to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds is rejected, her supporters say they will take her case to a higher court.
In the meantime, they hope Canada’s Immigration Minister Chris Alexander will intervene on her behalf.
Shia in the world
Pakistani Shia community is spread across the country. Pakistan hosts a number of distinct Shia communities, including the Turis and Bangash Pashtun tribes, Qizilbash, Hazaras, Gilgiti/Dardic, Baltis, Shias of Padhrar, Khojas,Bohris and others.
While the majority of Shia community comprises local ethnic groups like the Punjabis, Sindhis, Muhajirs, Kashmiris, Mughal and few Pashtuns and Balochis. There are also many Shias of Persian-Arab descent.
Divisions within the Shia sect
Although the overwhelming majority of Pakistani Shia Muslims belong to Ithna ‘ashariyah school, there are significant minorities of Nizari Ismailis (Agha Khanis) and the smaller Mustaali Dawoodi Bohra and Sulaimani Bohrabranches.