Eroding hope – story of a Pakistani woman wants to study in the US but denied visa

By Iram Salim

(Pak Destiny) It is a country where dreams are executed into reality. A land whose kernel of political philosophy was sowed in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg address, Pennsylvania, where he undertook to behold equality as a ‘self-evident truth’ ….. ‘man (assuming woman as well) was endowed by the creator with inalienable rights…’ Residing within that Lincolnian declaration were three significant doctrines of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, depositing trust in the land and its leaders to uphold and interpret ‘inalienable rights’ non-arbitrarily.

I was so excited! My dream was just an interview away. I was sure the visa officer interviewing me would consider the challenges faced by a woman married into a Pukhtun family with two children

More than 200 years later the United States of America upheld those doctrines but in the most arbitrary and select manner. Insular foreign policy meandered democracy into a system of governance hinging upon dollar-accretion. Rights of human beings had become a commodified transaction.
And yet this conglomerate of states is one of the most sought after countries for the conversion of fables into reality by people who prefer their skills to be commodified rather than work as bonded slaves in their country of origin.

Zara Mustafa was among the teeming millions who dreamed of going to the United States to study for a better future and to establish her identity as an individual, a luxury enjoyed only by the elite in Pakistan.
A Masters from the United States would definitely expand her career. Her husband, part of an extremely conservative Pukhtun lineage, did not deter Zara from enriching her intellect nor her career aspirations. He withstood his family’s opposition to help Zara in securing a place at a prestigious university in New York for a Masters degree. “It was very difficult to convince my family. A Pukhtun, especially coming from a place where my family has been living for more than 500 years in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, would never allow, and I deliberately use the word ‘allow’ his wife to travel abroad and certainly not for the purpose of education with two children,” said Ms Mustafa’s husband.
Zara’s husband had not only arranged two-years sustenance allowance for her but also for their two children aged four and six.“It was Zara’s dream to study in the States. She, along with our two children, was going to stay for the Masters duration of two years at a family friend’s place and return to teach at a university in Pakistan,” explained her husband.
On the day of the interview Zara dressed up her two children and went to the US embassy in Islamabad. “I was so excited! My dream was just an interview away. I was sure the visa officer interviewing me would consider the challenges faced by a woman married into a Pukhtun family with two children determined to overcome hindrances to strengthen her independence,” said a disconsolate Zara.
Unfortunately, Zara’s dream remained …… just a dream. Her visa was rejected on grounds of failing to establish a strong link in Pakistan. Perhaps, going with two children to study violated unforeseen US principles of immigration thereby raising suspicions about Zara’s intentions of not returning to Pakistan.
Zara is among many whose visa is rejected on the premise of ‘poor social ties to Pakistan’. While most of the states in the United States recognise the legal status of same sex marriage and civil partnership, it is quite interesting to note how a Muslim marriage between a man and a woman contracted under Islamic Sharia is perceived as a ‘poor social tie’ in considering a married woman’s visa. And why should it be assumed a Muslim woman travelling with children to study will sever marital ties once she disembarks on the US soil? “I already have a Masters from a local university.
Apparently, a globally competitive market demands qualitative education from a recognised foreign country. I thought I could break that glass ceiling with a degree from the US. Obviously the US is part of constructing that glass ceiling,” said Zara.
(Names are changed to protect privacy) – Pak Destiny

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