A Federal Appeals Court Grants Asylum to a Pakistani Businessman Who Aided the U.S.-Led Coalition During the Afghan War

The United States military action in Afghanistan began in the weeks following the September 11th attacks and spanned for nearly two decades. During that time, many citizens of that country (and surrounding states like Pakistan) aided coalition forces’ efforts. When U.S. forces left and the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in 2021, the changes placed those allies in grave danger. As a result, many of them may now qualify for asylum in the U.S. However, like with any asylum application, the process can be complicated and difficult, making the services of an experienced Maryland asylum lawyer especially important.

One such ally (and eventual asylum applicant)  was S.U., a Pakistani businessman who sold supplies to coalition forces. After the Taliban regained the reigns of power in 2021, they threatened to kill him if he did not pay them exorbitant sums of money. The businessman refused and, as a result, lost “his business, home, and nearly his life.” Fearing imminent death, he fled to the United States.

His asylum case is an example of how challenging the process can be. Despite his evidence of past persecution from the Taliban, immigration authorities concluded that the man didn’t qualify for asylum. The evidence showed that the man lived in a rural part of northwestern Pakistan situated on the Afghan border, that his business sold vehicles and tires to coalition forces during the war and, as a result, the Taliban threatened to kill him unless he paid the equivalent of nearly 1 million (USD).

The man eventually fled to Islamabad, 185 km east of his home. There, he stayed with a friend of his brother until the friend asked him to leave due to the danger that followed him. During those 3-4 weeks, S.U. never left the friend’s home.

In reaching their decisions, the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals were persuaded by the applicant’s stay in Islamabad — and the Taliban’s failure to find him there — that the man could reside in a new area of Pakistan “without fear of reprisal.”

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected those conclusions and ordered the immigration officials to grant the asylum application. The court noted that, under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, a successful applicant for asylum based on political persecution must have compelling proof “that he’s unable or unwilling to return to [home] ‘because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of . . . [his] political opinion.'”

Proof of Past Persecution… and a Legal Presumption

If you have proof of past persecution — which this businessman did — then that evidence carries with it a legal presumption that you’re at risk of future persecution in your home country. When that presumption is present, the government bears the burden of proving you’re not at risk. Rebutting that presumption requires a “preponderance of evidence” that the applicant won’t be specifically targeted.

The court ruled that the man’s stay in Islamabad was not strong enough to rebut (a/k/a cancel) the presumption. Nor was evidence that the man had 10 siblings who lived in various parts of Pakistan. The mere possibility that an applicant like S.U. could be safe living in a modern, low-crime city like Islamabad or residing with a friend or relative does not, by itself, “establish that relocation is reasonable,” the court explained.

Whether you need to pursue an asylum application or appeal an asylum decision, you need knowledgeable legal counsel on your side. Applicants with counsel are six times more likely to succeed than those without an attorney. The skilled Maryland asylum attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC are here to provide you with that type of effective advocacy and enhanced odds of success. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to schedule your consultation.

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