A champion squash player who fled to Canada to escape the Taliban in Pakistan is relieved to learn he won't be deported this weekend as scheduled.
Asif Khan Khalil, 20, currently lives in Winnipeg but was scheduled to be sent back to his native country on Sunday unless his lawyer could get an emergency reprieve.
Khalil received that emergency reprieve on Friday, at a meeting with Citizen and Immigration Canada officials that morning. No reason was given for the reprieve.
Khalil is required to check back with Citizen and Immigration officials every two weeks, and there is still a chance he could be deported at any time.
His lawyer, Bashir Khan, says the last-minute reprieve is unheard of.
Khalil, who claimed refugee status in August 2010, says he fears for his safety if he is deported to Pakistan.
He says his success with squash, a Western sport, is seen as a violation of Islam by the fundamentalist Taliban, especially in his home city of Peshawar, which borders Afghanistan.
Before coming to Canada, Khalil played at the national and international levels for Pakistan, and has won many titles in his native country.
Khalil left Pakistan in 2010 and has never returned, but he has been in touch with his family through phone calls.
The Taliban continue to threaten and beat his family, even as recently as this summer, he has said.
Application rejected in January
Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board rejected Khalil's application in January, saying it did not find enough evidence to believe his deportation to Pakistan would put him in danger.
But Khan said new evidence that was not available at the time of the refugee hearing has changed the case.
That new evidence included a sworn affidavit from Khalil's father, Masal, who wrote that during a sermon last July at their local mosque, a cleric accused of Khalil of "spreading poison of Western civilization by playing the Western sport of squash."
Masal said the cleric is also a well-known Taliban spokesperson.
Another piece of new evidence, according to Khan, was another sworn affidavit from Khalil's father recounting visits from Taliban members who threatened to kill Khalil.
Khalil currently works full-time at Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs, doing everything from mopping floors to setting tables at the race track's restaurant.
Khalil has said his dream is to become a world championship squash player for Canada, but he is currently limited in what he can do and where he can travel to compete because his refugee status remains in limbo.