Copy of NAT 200804 BUSHRA WIDOW ARAMZAN 3-1596606296673
Bushra Mushtaq with her three children Abdallah, Uzair and Mohammad at her residence who is in financial difficulty. 4th August 2020. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Sharjah: A Pakistani widow is stranded with her three children in Sharjah, as her visa has expired and she is unable to change her residency status or leave for home.

Bushra Mushtaq, 42, had an investor visa that expired on April 29, for her saloon. Under recently-announced rules, she has a grace period (from July 12 to October 12) to renew the visa, change its status to another visa, or cancel it and return to her hometown of Bagh in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

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Legal hurdles

However, Mushtaq said she is unable to move forward with any of those options because of two separate judgements against her for non-payment of rent for her saloon and her one-bedroom apartment, both in the Qasimia area.

The family fell on hard times after her husband, who used to work in a water and power facility in Fujairah, died from a heart attack in 2016. Mushtaq said she invested most of her husband’s gratuity of around Dh180,000 to take ownership of an existing ladies’ saloon in Sharjah in 2017. However, she added, business was too slow and unpaid rent for the saloon and her apartment piled up.

Overdue rents

Mushtaq said she was deemed liable for around Dh45,000 for about a year’s rent on her saloon, including court fees. She also has to clear around Dh25,000 in rent for the apartment in a separate case.

“Until these amounts are settled, I cannot make any changes to my visa status. I cannot go home either because I have a travel ban because of the cases. Even if I could, we don’t have a place in Pakistan; my husband’s family live in what was his house there. I’m stuck; I don’t know what to do,” said Mushtaq.

She added that she makes ends meet by preparing meals for office goers in the vicinity, which brings in about Dh3,000 a month.

“With this income, I cannot clear my dues. I want to return to the saloon, but its licence has expired. It has been closed since 2018. But without funds to settle the cases, I don’t see a way out of this difficulty.”

Searching for answers

Her three boys — Abdulla, 17; Uzair, 14; and Mohammad, 9 — attend a Pakistani school in Sharjah. Their school fees are mostly covered by a charity, with a minor amount outstanding for two of the sons.

“I’ve approached humanitarian organisations and they all are willing to help, but not until I change my expired investor visa. That is the rule, they say. But how I can do that with no financial means to resolve the legal hurdles? I don’t know what my next step is, I’m in a limbo,” Mushtaq said.

“We have no one here. Who will take care of my children if something happens to me? I’m doing these odd jobs to provide for them. I want to start working in my saloon again so we can have a normal life. Even if I could, going home would only mean a temporary solution. My siblings there have their own lives and families to look after, they cannot take us in indefinitely.”