A federal appeals court has reversed a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals that denied asylum to a Pakistani citizen. The court found merit in his claim that he would be targeted for cooperating with General Pervez Musharraf’s government if he’s sent back home.
On Monday in Mustafa v. Holder, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit granted Ghulam Mustafa’s petition for review of the appeals board’s ruling and remanded the case.
Mustafa is a citizen of Pakistan and a member of the Nawaz faction of the Pakistani Muslim League. He seeks asylum for himself, his wife and three children.
Mustafa claimed that he fears retribution because he gave the Musharraf government financial and personal information about his former boss, Saifur Rehman, a former Pakistani senator and league member.
Musharraf came to power through a military coup in 1999 and was Pakistan’s president from 2001 through 2008.
Rehman was briefly imprisoned for corruption before making a deal with the government.
Mustafa said he was threatened by a Rehman employee in 2002 and followed and harassed in 2003.
In October 2003, Mustafa and a friend were blocked by another car while driving in Pakistan. Armed men from the other car dragged Mustafa and his friend from their car and beat them for more than 20 minutes.
Mustafa claimed the men called him a "traitor" and warned him not to betray Rehman again. Mustafa was hospitalized after the beating and he claimed the police took no action.
Mustafa and his family came to the United States legally in November 2003, as non-immigrant visitors. In May 2004, he filed an application for asylum and withholding of removal, and he also sought protection under the Convention Against Torture at the Immigration Court.
In May 2012, the immigration board upheld an immigration judge’s ruling denying Mustafa asylum, agreeing with the judge’s assessment that Mustafa’s attackers were only seeking personal revenge in the 2003 incident and that there was no political element.
Mustafa appealed the immigration board’s order. He claimed that Pakistani intelligence agents pressured him in early 2000 into disclosing financial information he learned while working at Rehman’s construction business in the United Arab Emirates.
Judge Joel Flaum wrote the Seventh Circuit opinion, joined by Judges Richard Posner and Diane Sykes. Flaum wrote that the conclusion of the immigration judge and appeals board that the attack against Mustafa was apolitical "is unsupported by substantial evidence in the record."
Flaum detailed evidence ignored by the immigration judge, including Mustafa’s attackers’ claim that they acted on behalf of a high-ranking league member; the political environment at the time of the attack; Rehman’s verbal rejection of Mustafa’s reasons for cooperating with the Musharraf government; and an expert witness’s analysis of the political nature of the 2003 attack.
"Collectively, this evidence, which was present in the record but absent from the analysis below, sheds a different light on Mustafa’s attackers’ use of the word ‘traitor’ during the beating. Mustafa assisted in the takedown of a high-ranking member of the [league] immediately after the 1999 shift in power in Pakistan, and in the context of the facts articulated above, it would be unreasonable to conclude that his actions were viewed by his attackers as solely apolitical," Flaum wrote.
Mustafa’s attorney, Ronald Ng, an associate at the Law Offices of Kenneth Y. Gemen & Associates in Chicago, declined to comment beyond saying he was pleased with the ruling.
The Justice Department declined to comment, according to spokesman Charles Miller.