A stressful situation has developed in Azad Kashmir which is threatening to disrupt hundreds of families.
The British High Commission (BHC) in Islamabad has been rejecting a large number of legitimate marriage visa applications due to an administrative issue that is yet to be resolved.
The problem began when it was noted that many UK marriage visa application from Azad Kashmir, a free political state in the very south of Pakistan, were being rejected, which coincided with a change in the format of the marriage certificate. The BHC decided that the official marriage certificates from Azad Kashmir were no longer valid as they did not look the same as those issued in Pakistan.
Although legal representatives of many of the families that have been denied UK marriage visas on the grounds of their Azad Kashmir application forms and supporting documents no longer mirroring the application details from neighbouring Pakistan are disputing the decision, it still means a great deal of stress and frustration for the families involved.
Pakistan Muslim Family Law states that the marriage certificates issued in Pakistan, known as a Nikah Nama, is the same as the certificate of the same name in Azad Kashmir, and has long been accepted as proof of a valid marriage by the BHC. It is worth noting that the government of Azad Kashmir recently introduced a new marriage certificate too, called the Nikah Khawani, and while this is accepted as a valid marriage certificate in the UK, the BHC documentation has not been updated to include it as valid proof, which is adding to the delay in sorting out this issue.
British Foreign Minister David Miliband is well aware of the issue, particularly as it is causing a great deal of frustration and increasing anger between the UK and Pakistani immigration officials, and he has stated that he is committed to finding a solution that will protect the UK from bogus marriage visa applicants while supporting those that have the right to apply for a UK marriage visa.