London: A six-year-old girl who has spent her entire life inside a Pakistani prison after her British mother was convicted of drug trafficking has been released and returned to the UK.
Khadija Shah, 32, gave birth to her daughter Malaika while serving a life sentence inside the notorious Adiala prison in Rawalpindi, in the Punjab province.
Shah, from Birmingham, was caught at Islamabad airport with £3.2m of heroin in May 2012.
This week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that her daughter was returned to the UK three weeks ago.
Malaika’s current location has not been given, but it is believed she is living with family in the West Midlands.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our staff continue to assist a British woman jailed in Pakistan. We supported her family in bringing her daughter to the UK, working with them and the Pakistani authorities.”
Shah narrowly avoided execution after being caught with two suitcases containing 63kg (140lb) of heroin.
During her time in prison, Shah has continually protested her innocence and claims she was asked to take the cases during a stay in an Islamabad guesthouse.
Six months pregnant and accompanied by her two children, aged four and five, Shah was arrested at Benazir Bhutto International airport. Police found 120 wraps of heroin concealed in the folds of garments in the cases. Her two other children were detained with her, but flown back to Britain after four and a half months, and are being cared for by their grandmother.
Foreign Office staff have visited the mother and daughter in prison several times, while charities and authorities have pleaded for the pair’s release. It is understood Shah and her daughter shared a cell with six other mothers.
Shah has previously spoken to the media about her time in the Rawalpindi prison, which houses 400 female inmates.
In 2014, she said: “Malaika likes to play with empty wrappers of food items. I usually try to keep our surroundings clean, too. If Malaika was not here, I would be crazy because things are very hard. She keeps me strong. I am still breastfeeding.”
Shah has been supported by the British legal charity Reprieve and was let out of prison for a day to give birth to Malaika.
Shahzad Akbar, a former Reprieve fellow and Khadija’s lawyer at the time, said in 2014: “Khadija was asked to carry the bags by the person she thought was her boyfriend, a British national, and who brought her to Pakistan, and she has given the authorities his details. The anti-narcotics force seems only interested in picking up the carriers – women and children – and it isn’t going after the big fish.”
Adiala prison is known for its dangerously unhygienic conditions, and saw a serious outbreak of tuberculosis in 2012.
In a 2007 report on overcrowded Punjab prisons, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn said: “Adiala inmates constantly complain of harsh and brutal prison conditions, especially of overcrowding, filth and stinking toilets.
“Most prison barracks smell terrible and lice, bedbugs and fleas abound.”