Bringing up baby on Death Row, by the regretful British mother who smuggled £3million of heroin over border in three bulging suitcases
In a bare, whitewashed courtroom in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, Khadijah Shah tenderly rocks her baby, Malaika. The only home the infant has known since her birth four weeks ago is a filthy, overcrowded prison cell.
‘There’s no cot in the jail,’ says Khadijah in a thick Midlands accent. ‘She has to share my bunk with me. I’m afraid I might squash her or push her out of bed in the night.
‘But she’s not sleeping much. She’s always getting bitten by mosquitoes and she’s had a lot of diarrhoea. She’s peaceful now, but at night she cries all the time. ‘Thankfully, the other girls in the cell don’t seem to mind.’
At 9.30am one day in May, Khadijah, 25, and her two older children Ibrahim, five, and Aleesha, four were arrested at Islamabad airport as they tried to check in for a flight to Birmingham.
Court documents seen by The Mail on Sunday say that inside their suitcases, hidden beneath layers of clothing, was a staggering quantity of 100 per cent pure Afghan heroin – 65kg (145lb). At current UK wholesale drug prices, the haul would be worth up to £2.8 million.
In Pakistan, the death penalty by hanging is virtually automatic for seizures of a kilo or more. Moreover, possession of drugs is a ‘strict liability’ crime, which means the prosecution doesn’t have to prove that the alleged courier ever knew they were there.
In July, almost three months after Khadijah and the children were first held together in Rawalpindi’s notorious Adiala prison, she was able to send the youngsters back to England with her mother.
Khadijah knows that if she is convicted, she may never see them again. Even if she is eventually found not guilty, under Pakistan’s snail-like legal system her trial is unlikely to take place for years.
‘My daughter cried when she left,’ Khadijah said. ‘I cried. She said she didn’t want to leave me, that she’d rather be in prison. It was awful, and I miss them so much. But I couldn’t have let them stay. There are no toys, no playground, nothing for them to do. They’d both been ill, and Ibrahim had lost so much weight he looked like a bag of bones.’
Like many alleged drug ‘mules’ before her, Khadijah said she had ‘no idea’ that the suitcases, which she was asked to take to England by a friend, contained heroin.
There is no way of proving whether she is telling the truth. What is clear is that either way, she was only a tiny segment of a much bigger conspiracy, which directly links Taliban killings of British troops in Afghanistan to the heroin bought by addicts on our streets.
‘To be capable of a 65kg shipment, the mafia which organised this would have to be a major network, also sending drugs to Africa, every country in Europe, and Dubai,’ said an international law enforcement analyst interviewed in Pakistan last week. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity.
‘In Afghanistan, a proportion of the money it raises will be benefiting the Taliban insurgency. It is also likely that the dealers here in Pakistan and the distributors in Britain are basically all in the same group.’ Pakistan, said the analyst, is now used to transit about 40 per cent of the world’s total heroin supply.
At Western wholesale prices, the country’s share is worth about £20 billion a year.
Of this, he added, the annual total successfully trafficked to Britain weighs about 20 tons, with a wholesale value of up to £1 billion.
Yet to date, Khadijah is the only person facing punishment from the airport seizure on May 6. ‘She is not a woman of means, she obviously didn’t buy the heroin herself,’ said her lawyer, Shahzad Akbar. However, no further arrests have been made in Pakistan or Britain.
At the end of May, Clive Stafford Smith, of the human rights charity Reprieve, which is working with Mr Akbar, volunteered to supply information Reprieve had uncovered about the broader drug conspiracy, information Khadijah did not know herself, to the Serious And Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the UK body that investigates drug trafficking. Mr Stafford Smith said: ‘It took four and a half months for them to set up a meeting. They seemed to have little interest in catching the real criminals.’
Born to Pakistani parents in the Birmingham suburb of Small Heath, Khadijah left Sheldon Heath community school at 16 with no qualifications. ‘I just dropped out of my GCSE courses,’ she admitted.
She wasn’t, she said, ever formally assessed as having special educational needs. But according to Mr Stafford Smith, who has seen her with Mr Akbar, she has difficulty reading and writing.
‘She didn’t pay much attention at school,’ said Khadijah’s sister, Zaneb. ‘She did a computer course but she couldn’t get a job. She’s a very naive person. She’s a good mother, but she’s like a child herself.’
Khadijah was still just 17 when she moved in with her boyfriend Ahzar, the father of Ibrahim and Aleesha.
But when the children were still very young, Ahzar left her because his parents had arranged a marriage with someone they considered more suitable.
‘I was sad when he disappeared, but now we have very little contact,’ Khadijah said.
‘I’ve tried to get maintenance from him, but he’s unemployed, so he has no money, anyway.’
About a year ago, Khadijah began seeing Amar, the father of Malaika. At around the same time, she met a man who lived in Smethwick named Imran Khan (no relation to the famous cricketer). It was he who organised her trip to Pakistan. Khadijah said: ‘It was meant to be just a holiday.
I was staying with the kids in a guesthouse in Islamabad. On the last night a guy called Shakil turned up from Rawalpindi. He seemed like a decent guy, certainly not a criminal.
‘He had the suitcases and Imran asked me to take them to England. They said it was just clothes they wanted taking to Britain. Imran took my own luggage and said he’d bring it back with him later. I didn’t open the cases and I didn’t know what was in them.’
But someone was about to tip off Pakistan’s specialist drugs agency, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF). A report filed in court by ANF senior investigator, Syed Imtiaz, states: ‘On May 6, 2012 at about 8.00 I received information that British national woman Khadijah Shah will travel through flight PK-791 Islamabad to Birmingham with a huge quantity of heroin.’
He put together a team of officers and rushed to the airport. They quickly identified Khadijah, who was clutching three British passports and pushing a trolley with the suitcases into the departures hall. When the ANF men asked her to open the bags, they found 123 sealed and wrapped bags of heroin.
‘When they found the drugs, I was stunned,’ Khadijah said. ‘Imran had been using me. They took me into a small office where a lady officer questioned me. She said I wasn’t giving her enough information and she slapped me several times around the face in front of my kids. They were screaming, hysterical. Later my son asked me, “Mummy, have we been arrested?” ’
The law enforcement analyst said that recently, drug mafias operating out of Pakistan have increasingly been using women as couriers, especially those who are pregnant.
Last month, another British woman, Yasmeen Akhtar, now one of those sharing Khadijah’s cell, was also arrested at Islamabad airport, albeit with ‘only’ 7kg of drugs. In part, the analyst said, this is because the drug barons think female couriers will be less conspicuous. But there may be another reason: that they believe their networks will be safer if the courier is caught, because Pakistani police are reluctant to torture women.
Here confirmation came from a surprising source, Captain Ahzar Zubair, the Rawalpindi police chief, whose jurisdiction includes the whole of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area. He said: ‘A woman will not be harshly interrogated. Usually she will be the only one punished.
‘It’s not easy to pick up everyone, and as soon as someone has been arrested, they will know. To catch the rest is a difficult job.’
By nightfall on May 6, Khadijah and the children were in Adiala, the Rawalpindi Central Jail, a vast, sprawling compound containing dozens of separate cell blocks. Above its main gate, painted an incongruous pink, is an Urdu inscription: ‘Hate the crime, not the criminal.’
At that time of year, temperatures in the shade regularly top more than 40C (104F). There was no air conditioning and very little room at the jail, said Khadijah.
‘In the cell there’s two double-decker bunks,’ she added. ‘Each one has one adult prisoner, but the kids had to share my bed with me. There’s very little room to walk around. There’s a toilet, but no privacy, we just use it in front of each other.’
The jail food, mainly bread and rice, is ‘horrible’, though she is able to supplement it by buying her own vegetables.
For the birth, Khadijah was taken to a nearby hospital, but three days later mother and daughter were back at Adiala. Describing the experience of nursing a newborn in prison, Khadijah’s eyes fill up with tears: ‘I’m really worried about her. I breastfeed her, and she has put on some weight, but she seems to be ill, and she cries so much.
‘She’s had no medical treatment, no vaccines. The only medicine they seem to have here is Ibuprofen [which, according to its manufacturers, should never be given to a baby of this age].’
Pakistani legal sources say there are several possibilities as to how the ANF received its tip-off. One is that corrupt officials, who had been paid to ensure the drug shipment went through, discovered that more heroin than had been agreed was in the suitcases, and so had Khadijah arrested because they had not been paid enough.
Another, said the international analyst, is that the gang deliberately set her up to provide a diversion, so that while the ANF was occupied with her, other, bigger shipments could be smuggled out.
Whatever the truth, it is evident that the present outcome could have been avoided.
For at least a decade, Britain has helped to train the ANF, and provided it with equipment worth millions of pounds. The ANF also works with MI6, and it sent a team to a four-day meeting at MI6’s London headquarters in January 2011.
The ANF’s annual report states that it has frequently shared ‘real time’ intelligence with its British partners. It has also arranged ‘controlled deliveries’ when instead of being stopped at Islamabad airport, couriers have been allowed to reach the UK, where they can be placed under surveillance.
In several cases, this has led to the successful prosecution of the British end of international drugs conspiracies. For some reason, when they got the tip-off about Khadijah, this was not arranged.
‘We have to assume they didn’t tell SOCA, so a controlled delivery was not carried out,’ said the analyst. ‘Maybe there was a lack of trust. Maybe they just wanted to get all the credit which, with a controlled delivery, would have been shared.’ Repeated requests for an interview with the ANF were declined.
A SOCA spokeswoman said: ‘SOCA’s response to an increase in seizures of heroin trafficked through Pakistan in 2011-12 has included improved intelligence exchange with Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force. SOCA’s activity overseas is conducted in compliance with international humanitarian law and the principles of human rights.’
A Muslim mother of two from Burnley has admitted claiming thousands of pounds in benefits despite sitting on £23,000 in savings. She was given a fine of £110 on top of £85 court costs and a victim surcharge of £15.
Burnley Magistrates’ Court heard how Rashida Begum (27) failed to notify the authorities of the cash for four years – despite it being £7,000 above the limit for savings.
The defendant, of Burns Street, was said to have been over-paid almost £3,500 during the period.
She pleaded guilty before Burnley magistrates to failing to notify her changes in circumstances to entitlement for social security money.
Begum, who has no previous convictions, was given a fine of £110 on top of £85 court costs and a victim surcharge of £15.
Sentencing, magistrate Mr Padia said: “It is benefit fraud. You pleaded guilty to it.
“Ultimately the public pay – the money doesn’t come from nowhere. Everyone pays taxes and everyone has to pay for what you did.”
The court heard how Begum, who cares for her two children – one of whom is disabled – had 11 bank accounts with savings totalling £23,000.
But prosecution solicitor Mr Andrew Robinson said when she admitted the crime said she thought only one account had to be declared.
He said: “It is said to be a case where this lady, for three years and seven months, failed to declare capital in excess of £16,000.
“She had savings over the allowed limit there was an over-payment of £3,466.32.”
Miss Laura Heywood (defending) said the defendant had suffered an accident at a school where she broke her finger. The injury led her to being given a large amount of compensation.
Miss Heywood said her client had put this significant cash sum in a separate bank account for her children’s future.
The solicitor said: “She did not realise she had to declare that.
“She now realises it is money she had to she should have declared to the benefits agency.
“It was not fraud – it was a legitimate claim at the start.
“She has limited understanding of English and got help from her friend and her father – that is maybe why she did not declared the money because it was not properly explained to her.
“She now has a voluntary agreement with the benefits agency to repay the amount.” -C-
Thanks to The New Daily Patriot
Islington girls forced into marriage at the age of nine
AN alarming number of under-age girls, some as young as nine, are being forced into marriage in Islington, according to a leading campaign group.
The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) claim that at least 30 girls in the borough were forced into marriage in 2010.
The practice was condemned by the Imam of Finsbury Park Mosque, who said such marriages were against Islam and “unacceptable”.
He pledged to invalidate any marriage which he said were carried out by “back-street Imams”.
IKWRO, which made headlines last month when they revealed there had been almost 3,000 “honour-based” violence cases in 2010, has shown the Tribune records which revealed at least three 11-year-old girls and two nine-year-olds had been forced into marriage with older men within Islington. The oldest girls involved were 16.
They have warned that hundreds of Islington girls could be suffering sexual, emotional and physical scars as a result of the child marriages every year and are calling for teachers, social workers and police to be better trained to spot and manage the abuse.
Information from the Ministry of Justice, following a Freedom of Information request, revealed that 32 Forced Marriage Protection Order applications were made for children under 16 in Britain last year.
Six of these were made for under-16s within Islington at the Royal Courts of Justice, although these were not necessarily made for Islington residents.
At the Islington court, “five or fewer” orders were made to protect children between the ages of 9-11.
The orders are a form of injunction that threaten legal punishment if marriage takes place due to emotional or physical force.
In most cases, the children fear they will be killed if they reveal the truth to anybody, while others believe they will be separated from their families and taken into social services’ care.
Dianna Nammi, director of IKWRO, explained that the girls are married in a mosque’s sharia court. This means they are not legally married according to British law, rendering the Home Office unable to recognise or prove the abuse.
“They are still expected to carry out their wifely duties, though, and that includes sleeping with their husband,” she said.
“They have to cook for them, wash their clothes, everything. They are still attending schools in Islington, struggling to do their primary school homework, and at the same time being practically raped by a middle-aged man regularly and being abused by their families. So they are a wife, but in a primary school uniform.
“The reason it doesn’t get out is because they are too terrified to speak out, and also the control their families have over them is impossible to imagine if you’re not going through it. The way it is covered up is so precise, almost unspeakable.”
Ms Nammi said that one 13-year-old had to sneak out of a maths lesson to contact the group, because she was being monitored so closely by her family.
“Her teacher didn’t notice because she said she’d gone to the toilet, but when she got home that day she was beaten,” she said.
“Her father knew she hadn’t been in maths because he had sent an uncle to spy on who she was talking to through the classroom window.”
Ms Nammi said that the girls are married off to family friends or family members to stop them from losing their virginity to anyone not chosen by their father.
However, the incentive is also often financial.
“The girl automatically becomes her husband’s property, so he takes financial responsibility for her,” said Ms Nammi.
“In fact, often the husband has to start contributing to the girl’s family, so it becomes a way of bringing in another salary.
“Who are girls going to tell? Often they feel like teachers at school won’t understand what their families are like. They will think they’re like Western families, and won’t understand that if they pass on anything at all that they’ve been told to the family, then the girl will be killed. So they just chose not to tell at all.”
IKWRO offers counselling and support to the children, but does not force them to take any action until they are ready. Often, that involves being placed in social services’ care.
Finsbury Park Mosque imam Ahmed Saad said he was glad the issue was being highlighted, and stressed that it was not an Islamic problem, but a cultural one.
“This is down to ignorance, and ignorant people who will use any excuse they can to do this to their children,” he said.
“It is the practice in their home countries and they don’t want to stop that here, so they will say it’s in the Koran, when it is not. According to Islam, it is entirely unacceptable.
“My own grandmother was married at the age of 11, but that was in 1907 in Egypt when lifespans were much shorter.
“I have heard of this happening in Islington by back-street imams. They are imams who have little knowledge of Islam – they are not educated, and they simply lead prayers, and yes they will do this and it is very quietly kept a secret with no one admitting to it.
“Islam says both parties must truly consent in their hearts, and if the girl was forced into it in any way then she can invalidate her Sharia marriage with or without the husband’s permission.
“I will personally do that for anyone who comes to me. This is simply child abuse, as a child does not know what they are doing.
“My heart goes out to the girls.”
Imam Saad explained that Sharia law stated an individual can marry when they begin puberty, with the most important stipulation being that they are “rushd”, or mature enough to understand marriage.
A spokesman for the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) said he was “unsure” whether the lack of legal status of the marriages affected whether the they could intervene or not, but directed the Tribune to government practice guidelines on dealing with forced marriage.
The spokesman added that due to the lack of legal status the marriages may be a “criminal matter that only the police can deal with”, but admitted to it being “”a very grey area”.
The FMU guidelines state: “It is probable that children’s social care will play a key role in protecting the interests of the child or young person. This can be achieved not only by arranging practical help such as accommodation and financial support, but also by co-operating and working with other agencies such as police, health and education professionals.”
A Turkish and Farsi speaking adviser at IKWRO, said while that the Islington Police’s domestic violence co-ordinators were “brilliant” at dealing with the cases, front-line officers “can make things worse by not being sensitive because they don’t really understand what’s going on”.
“When they try and speak to the child’s parents they often have a language barrier,” she said.
“Too often they don’t bother to call an interpreter so they don’t talk to the parents at all about what they’re doing, until it goes to court much later. A common complaint we have is that it depends on who you are, too – some women say that when they’re from poorer families the police don’t take them as seriously.”
ROJIN (this is not her real name) told a Tribune reporter how she had been forcibly married at the age of 12 to a 32 year-old man. She said she grew up in Finsbury Park where she lived with her parents from the Middle East.
After her “marriage” she said she was placed in care and then allowed to live with friends.
“I was forced by my dad,” she said. “He didn’t beat me or anything, he told me I was useless, no one would ever accept me anyway so I’d better just marry while someone wanted me because it wouldn’t happen again.
“I thought that if I didn’t do it I would just be taken away and married anyway, so it was better to co-operate and at least get to stay in England.
“Also, if I co-operated then if my husband treated me badly at least my family would support me against him. But if I said no, they’d say I was bringing shame on the family and wouldn’t support me no matter what he did, because I would have made them angry.
“My parents sorted out an imam to marry us quite quickly. The first one they approached said no, the next one said yes, and this was in Islington. I met my husband three days before my wedding, which only my close family was invited to.
“We were married in my parents’ house.
“He was a 37-year-old man from Birmingham [the Tribune understands he had come from the Middle East]. I told my parents that I had fallen in love with him and I was doing it for myself because my mum felt bad about what they were doing to me. That night I had to go to his flat and sleep with him because that’s what marriage is.
“But I didn’t want to. After that I told my husband I didn’t want to look at him or talk to him. I didn’t want him sitting next to me, standing next to me, nothing. He got frustrated and said that I had to sleep with him because I was his wife, but I said if he forced himself on me then I would call the police and tell them everything.
“After my mum died I was taken into care. I told my social worker about everything, but I missed out the bit about sleeping with him.
“Social services have no understanding of Islam, and they don’t know that for me, as a Muslim, I am still his wife because we were married by an imam and we have not divorced. So I still text him and want to go to see him because I have to as a wife.
“This is more of a marriage to me than a legal one because it’s by Allah. In my mind I know I have to still be a wife to him till he finally divorces me or I feel something bad will happen to me, or my mum, who is now dead, will have shame on her name.
“He refuses to divorce me, though. Friends have said they’d be happy to come with me to the mosque for a divorce to say yes to it.
“I live with friends so I don’t have to sleep with him, cook for him, nothing like that. He can’t beat me, and no one can kill me here, but I am trapped as his wife.
“Even when I am an adult and leave, I’ll have to go back to him as his wife until one day he finally grants me a divorce.”
*((“This is why there should be NO Sharia law courts in Britain, they are using their religion to overthrow the British Justice System and it needs to be stopped“))*
MP Tom Watson demands probe
A powerful paedophile network may have operated in Britain protected by its connections to Parliament and Downing Street, a senior Labour politician suggested yesterday.
Speaking from the back benches of the House of Commons, Tom Watson, the deputy chairman of the Labour Party, called on the Metropolitan Police to reopen a closed criminal inquiry into paedophilia.
Indicating his anxiety that there had been an establishment cover-up, Mr Watson referred to the case of Peter Righton, who was convicted in 1992 of importing and possessing illegal homosexual pornographic material.
Righton, a former consultant to the National Children’s Bureau and lecturer at the National Institute for Social Work in London, admitted two illegal importation charges and one charge of possessing obscene material. He was fined £900.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Watson said the evidence file used to convict Righton “if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring”.
He told a hushed Commons: “One of its members boasts of a link to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad.
“The leads were not followed up, but if the files still exist, I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it, and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10.”
In the aftermath of Mr Watson’s remarks, media outlets speculated that he was referring to the late former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath – who was the subject of unsubstantiated rumours about sex with under-age boys – or to Sir Peter Morrison, a former Downing Street aide who died in 1995.
However, The Independent understands that Mr Watson’s comments were not aimed at either Sir Edward or Sir Peter, but at a living person associated with Margaret Thatcher’s administration.
They are thought to involve the activities of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a pro-paedophile group in existence between 1974 and 1984, which believed there should be no age of consent.
Responding to the remarks, David Cameron said the MP had raised “a very difficult and complex case”, adding he was unclear which former Prime Minister Mr Watson was referring to.
Criticising the BBC’s record on Savile – who was never caught and died last year aged 84, the Prime Minister said: “These allegations do leave many institutions – perhaps particularly the BBC – with serious questions to answer – I think above all the question, ‘How did he get away with this for so long?’.”
He told MPs: “The most important thing is that the police investigation is properly resourced and is allowed to continue.”
A TEENAGER was assaulted and had his phone and wallet stolen in a park attack.
The 16-year-old boy was walking in Corporation Park with his girlfriend, 15, when he was approached by two Asian men.
The men, thought to be aged 17 or 18 and both wearing hooded tops, attacked him, then stole his Blackberry Torch phone, and a black wallet, just after 5pm on Tuesday.
Inspector Graham Ashcroft said: “This is a serious and violent offence. I am really keen to speak to anyone who knows the individuals, or saw them leaving the park.”
Call police on 101.
Blow to Sarah’s Law as judges rule paedophiles’ human rights should be considered
Parents could have a harder time finding out if any paedophiles live nearby after a High Court ruling that sex offenders’ human rights to privacy should be considered.
In a judgement that lawyers say risks “watering down” what is known as Sarah’s Law, the court ruled that offenders should be given a say before their presence is disclosed.
Their human right to a family life should also be taken into account, the judges said.
In a test case brought by a repeat sex offender from the Sheffield area, two judges agreed he had the right to make “representations” to South Yorkshire police before local parents who made inquiries about him were told of his criminal past.
Sarah’s Law, started in 2008, allows parents to find out from police if someone has a record for child sexual offences.
Known formally as the child sex offender disclosure scheme (CSOD), it is named after Sarah Payne, who was murdered in 2000 at the age of eight by Roy Whiting, a paedophile.
But the new ruling could force a redrafting of the guidelines.
Sir John Thomas, one of the judges, ruled that key parts of the Home Office guidelines were “unlawful” and said a “balancing exercise” was needed between sex offenders’ human rights to respect for their privacy and family lives on the one hand, and the interests of protecting children on the other.
Observing that criminal records and other information about sex offenders were often inaccurate, the judge said that in most cases it would be necessary to ask sex offenders if they wanted to make representations before their details were revealed to members of the public.
Sitting with Mr Justice Hickinbottom, he said: “Whilst each case will turn on its own facts, it is difficult to foresee cases where it would be inappropriate to seek representations, unless there was an emergency or seeking the representations might itself put the child at risk.”
He added: “We conclude that the CSOD guidance sets out a policy and process that in a number of specific cases may well not comply with the applicable legal principles”.
The judges stopped short of overturning the CSOD scheme altogether, saying that would be “disproportionate and risk harm to children”.
But their comments could require the re-writing of the guidance to ensure child sex offenders’ rights are respected.
Malcolm Johnson, a solicitor with Blake Lapthorn who specialises in child abuse compensation claims, said the ruling was “effectively going to water down” Sarah’s Law.
“The pressure is now on the Government to come up with something new,” he said.
The man who brought the case to court, referred to only as “X”, is on the sex offenders’ register for life.
He admitted two indecent assaults on a child at Sheffield Crown Court in 1990 and was jailed for two years. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to four more sex attacks on a child and received a four-year prison sentence.
*((One word; DISGUSTED!))*