::International parental child abduction and custody matters….. Legal Services in Pakistan

::International parental child abduction and custody matters….. Legal Services in Pakistan

LAHORE: Lahore High Court granted the custody of an 11-year-old girl to her French mother on Friday, upholding earlier court verdicts that had awarded custody to the mother.

The screaming girl, named Amina Tarrar, was brought to court by South Cantt Police, Lahore. “I will only go with my mother if she converts to Islam,” Amina told Justice Manzoor Ali during the hearing. “Child, my job is to decide the case on basis of law,” the judge responded.

The police found Amina from the Combined Military Hospital, Lahore, where her father Razzaq Tarrar has been admitted for a heart condition.

Tarrar’s lawyer argued that the only reason Amina had been detained by her father was because she was a Muslim man’s daughter. But her mother, Ingrid Brandun Berger’s counsel, argued that the guardian court of Phalia, a sessions court and a French court had already awarded Berger her daughter’s custody.

Amina was born in France to French national Berger and Pakistani national Razzaq Tarrar. The couple divorced in 2001, and a French court gave custody of the minor to Berger. Tarrar, a resident of Phalia, brought Amina, then five years old, to Pakistan when he was supposed to spend the weekend with his daughter. In 2005, Tarrar filed for Amina’s custody in Phalia’s guardian court. Berger then came to Pakistan in 2006 and filed for custody in the same court. The guardian court again gave custody to Berger, but before the order could be executed, Tarrar disappeared with Amina, says Berger’s lawyer.

Berger then took the case to the sessions court, which also awarded the custody to her, but Amina was detained by her father. Berger filed an FIR against Tarrar at the Phalia police station under Section 363 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Tarrar has been declared a proclaimed offender for abducting Amina and not producing her despite court orders.

Berger and her counsel allege that local politicians and Mandi Bahauddin DPO Dar Ali Khattak have been colluding with Tarrar and his family and refused to find Amina. In 2009, Berger filed another petition in the Lahore High Court for her daughter’s recovery.

Amina’s grandfather Manzoor Ahmed told reporters that they did not want their granddaughter to “grow up as an infidel”. The family insisted that reporters should interview Amina, who was traumatised after the verdict.

In the last three years, this is the second case of international parental child abduction, involving a French citizen, in which the LHC has awarded custody to the mother. In 2009, a high-profile case emerged of French national Peggy Collin who campaigned for the recovery of her minor son who was abducted by his Pakistani father. Once the case caught public eye, the Punjab government also intervened to speed up the recovery of Collin’s son. Collin, who now lives in Paris with her son, has been helping Berger in the search for her daughter in Pakistan with the help of the French embassy.

Tarrar’s lawyer likened Berger’s case to Collin’s and complained that the court should have considered that the Muslim father is the rightful custodian of the minor.

Immediately after the hearing, Berger and Amina flew to Islamabad from where they are scheduled to fly to Paris.

Father has right to appeal LHC decision

The Judicial Activism Panel has filed an application in the Supreme Court of Pakistan for a suo motu notice on behalf of the Provincial Minister planning and development mines and mineral energy, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, to keep the minor in Pakistan till the father can contest an appeal against the LHC verdict in the Apex court.

In the application, Ghafoor asks the Apex court to take a suo motu on grounds that the minor did not want to go with her mother. He asked the court whether it was better if the case was settled at the Supreme Court level.

Ghafoor has asked if it can be guaranteed whether the French mother would not ask the girl to change her religion. The minister further urged the court to stop Amina from leaving the country till the father Abdul-Razzaq Tarrar who is under treatment in a hospital, exercises his right to appeal the LHC verdict in the Supreme Court.

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