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Jailed Pakistani from Jamaica fights deportation

For more than six months, Shabih Ul-Hassan, a Pakistani immigrant seeking asylum in the United States, has been living in a detention cell, far from his wife and children in Jamaica.

Ul-Hassan was arrested in December for violating a deportation order after his asylum application was denied and was even placed on an airplane bound for his native country three months ago.

But now Ul-Hassan will get another chance to plead his case to stay in the United States since the Board of Immigration Appeals has agreed to re-evaluate his status, said Sin Yen Ling, Ul-Hassan's lawyer.

Ul-Hassan fled Pakistan in 1995 with his wife and son because of his leadership position in the Muttahida Quami Movement, a political party that has challenged the Pakistani government under President Gen. Pervez Mussarraf, said Ul-Hassan's wife, Razia Sultan.

"My husband was involved with the MQM," she said through a translator. "It put his life in danger."

The party leaders faced persecution and torture, and Ul-Hassan came to the United States with bullet wounds in his legs and chest as well as stitches in his head, said Subhash Kateel of Families for Freedom, a support network for families facing deportation.

The family applied for asylum when they arrived, but their lawyer stole money from them, lost some of their legal documents, including an article in a Pakistani newspaper that cited Ul-Hassan by name, and never told the family there was a deportation order against them, Ling said. The lawyer was disbarred in New York state and was prosecuted in Florida for similar crimes involving other clients, Kateel said.

"They had outright ineffective counsel," Ling said. "He lost documents that would have been clear evidence he would have been a target if he returned."

The family was classified as absconders, people who have ignored a deportation order, Ling said. Ul-Hassan was arrested in December when two NYPD police officers came to the family's Jamaica home at dawn, supposedly to investigate a burglary from 2000, Kateel said. He has been held in a New Jersey detention center since then.

Ul-Hassan's wife and children, including two who were born in America, had not seen him from the time he was arrested until May because of the prohibitive distance and fear of entering a detention center, Sultan said.

About three months ago, Ul-Hassan was placed on a mass-deportation flight to Pakistan with 100 people, but at the last minute an emergency motion to stay was granted and he was pulled off the plane. The motion was granted to allow the Board of Immigration Appeals to consider reopening his case, Kateel said.

"This is all really amazing," Kateel said. "His case should have been over. He was on his way to the plane and was actually sitting in a seat when the emergency papers got through."

But Ul-Hassan is still in the New Jersey detention center, and Ling hopes to get him released on bond while his case is heard, she said. The family is due back in court June 30 and the process could take a year, Ling said.

In the meantime, members of the Pakistani community in Queens have been helping Sultan while her husband has been detained, she said. The community members have taken her to visit Ul-Hassan and lent a hand with the children, ages 9, 6 and 5, and with maintaining the apartment, she said.

The aid is given freely as a payback for Ul-Hassan's work in the community, helping others build things, using his experience working in a lumberyard in Pakistan and construction here, she said.

"A lot of folks in the community have been helping," Kateel said. "He was well-known for doing a lot of work. A lot of people liked and respected him."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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