August 23, 2002


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The Rediff Special/ Syed Amin Jafri

For Tasleem, the Pakistani wife of Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, the Indian who is in jail in the United States for credit card fraud, it has been a never-ending story of woe for almost a year. She is waging a desperate legal battle to resist deportation to Pakistan and is hoping to get Indian citizenship.

She got a breather last week when the Andhra Pradesh high court, which is hearing a writ filed by her, stayed her deportation by four weeks. She was placed in custody August 18 after deportation orders were served on her, but at the intervention of Home Minister T Devender Goud she was granted five days' grace period to enable her to appeal to the court.

Tasleem now awaits the outcome of her writ appeal, which will be heard September 19. Her defense is that she is the legally wedded wife of an Indian, who is awaiting deportation from the United States, and is the mother of an eight-month-old child who was born in India.

Azmath and Syed Gul Mohammed Shah alias Ayub Ali Khan were arrested a day after terrorists struck in the US on September 11 last year. While initially the US authorities suspected that the two Indians were involved in the attacks, they were found innocent and subsequently jailed merely for credit card fraud.

Tasleem's travails began soon after she arrived in Hyderabad, India, in March 2001. It was a homecoming of sorts for her since her family originally hailed from this southern city.

"My parents migrated from Hyderabad and settled in Karachi, Pakistan. Some of my siblings were born here. Even while living in Pakistan, we kept in touch with our relatives here. We visited Hyderabad several times," she told

Mohammed Jaweed Azmath "Mohammed Jaweed Azmath is my cousin. Both our paternal grandmothers were sisters. During our childhood, our parents fixed our match. My engagement to Azmath took place 16 years ago when I was in my teens," she points out.

"After a long wait, I arrived in Hyderabad for my marriage to Azmath on March 2 last year. On March 11, my wedding was solemnized. After a few weeks, Azmath returned to the United States. That is when my nightmare started," she explains matter-of-factly, unwinding the story she has lived through for the last 18 months.

A few months after his return to New Jersey, Azmath lost his job at a newsstand in Newark and set out for another job at a fruit-stand in Texas. But Azmath and Shah were arrested at Fort Worth on September 12 last year.

"It was as if my entire world came crashing down. Over the last 11 months, I have kept my cool and taken every hardship and misfortune in my stride. Allah has answered all my prayers and, by God's grace, my husband is likely to be deported from the United States next month, after his last hearing in the credit card case on September 18," Tasleem says.

While things are apparently looking up for Azmath, Tasleem's crisis continues. "I arrived here on a 90-day visa in March 2001. I was granted a one-year extension from May 30, 2001, to May 29, 2002. On April 25 this year, I applied for a two-year extension of my visa on the grounds that I have to look after my aged in-laws and my son Mohammed Bilal who was born on December 13 last year," she says.

June 17, the Andhra Pradesh government asked Tasleem to leave India. The order said since Azmath was arrested in the US under suspicious circumstances and since a case was booked against him in Hyderabad for furnishing false information to get his Indian passport, his wife, a Pakistani citizen, should not remain in India.

After she received the orders refusing the extension of visa, she approached the high court July 15, challenging her deportation. However, the federal government told the court that it had not received her application for a visa extension. The state government contended that the deportation orders were served in the 'national interest' after due enquiries by the police.

"I don't know what to do. I have to take care of my ailing grandmother-in-law and my father-in-law. My mother-in-law passed away years ago. My younger brother-in-law [Azmath's brother] is unmarried and looks after the family business. I have my little son to look after. What will happen to me, my baby and in-laws if I am deported?" she asks.

"In Karachi, I have my mother and three brothers and two sisters. My father passed away and my mother stays with one of the brothers. All my brothers and sisters are married and live a middle class life. They are not rich enough to take care of me. I have studied only up to 12th stand [pre-university class]. Besides, will Pakistan accept my son who is born to an Indian parent in India?" Such woeful thoughts keep popping up.

"This is certainly not something I had bargained for. I thought I will be living a happy, contented life here but fate had something else in store for me. I am sure Allah will help me overcome this ordeal since I am on the right path. I have done no wrong. Allah is my guide and my judge. I leave everything to Him and I am sure that justice will be done to me. Why do I deserve deportation from here?" she says emotionally.

Tasleem is determined to take her battle to its logical conclusion. "I will approach the National Human Rights Commission. I will also make a fresh application seeking Indian citizenship. I will also file an appeal in the Supreme Court, if the need arises," she declares, before adding firmly, "I certainly deserve a better deal from the authorities. India is my country and it was the home of my family before. I cannot be thrown out of here like this."

Also see:
America's war on terrorism
The Attack on US cities

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