British woman sentenced to life in Pakistan for drugs offences

March 18, 2014

Khadija Shah, a British woman from Birmingham, has today been sentenced to life imprisonment for drugs offences in Pakistan despite denying all the charges against her.

Khadija, 26, was arrested and jailed in May 2012 when pregnant. She subsequently gave birth to baby Malaika – in October, 2012 – but was denied bail, meaning that Malaika has remained in prison with her mother. Khadija has two other young children who were with her at the time of arrest but have since returned to Britain.

Khadija was arrested at Islamabad airport and convicted of smuggling approximately 63kg of heroin. She has always maintained that she had no idea what she was carrying.

Legal charity Reprieve has raised concerns with the UK Government over the £5m or more it has provided in counter-narcotics aid to Pakistan since 2010, in the light of the heavy penalties – including death sentences – the country hands down for non-violent drugs offences.  However, ministers have so far refused to take steps in response to the issue.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty team, said: “In light of the excessively harsh sentences Pakistan hands down to vulnerable, exploited women such as Khadija, it seems hard to justify the millions in aid Britain has contributed to the country’s counter-narcotics operations. This is a terrible outcome for Khadija and her baby Malaika. As happens in hundreds of cases, she was used as a drugs mule without her knowledge, and yet is facing life in a Pakistani prison. The UK government must ensure that Khadija gets the urgent assistance she needs to appeal her sentence so that her baby doesn’t grow up behind bars.”