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LAHORE: The parents of a Pakistani girl, who flew back to Italy on Friday, are weighing possibilities of getting her custody from the Italian government.

The parents acted after the Pakistani interior ministry managed to recover the girl from their custody when the Italian embassy took up her case with the local authorities in Islamabad. The matter was reported to police for custody through the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW).

Islamabad handed over the girl to the Italian embassy that arranged her travel back to Italy on Friday. However, police and the PCSW officials categorically denied the Italian embassy’s assertion of her forced abortion in Pakistan.

“We investigated the case, questioned Farah, her parents and some locals and found no evidence of a forced abortion,” Garhi Shahu Station House Officer (SHO) Qaiser Aziz told Dawn.

He claimed that even Farah had denied she got an abortion in Pakistan. Her parents were given sufficient time with their daughter at home, police station and in court to convince Farah to change her mind, but to no avail, he said.

“On Friday, Farah’s parents visited the police station to explore options to get her custody back,” Aziz said, adding that the parents told him that since they were Italian nationals, they reserved the right to seek her custody according to the country’s laws.

PCSW senior officials also endorsed the police viewpoint.

“We got details from the family and the girl about her alleged forced abortion in Pakistan but found no evidence,” PCSW legal adviser Imran Qureshi told Dawn.

Qureshi, who had accompanied police to recover Farah from her parents’ house, said the girl expressed her will to go back to Italy instead of living here.

“The interior ministry in Islamabad contacted police high-ups through the PCSW almost a week ago seeking help for the recovery of Farah,” Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Muntazar Mehdi told Dawn.

A team of senior police officers, women constables and PCSW officials went to the girl’s residence in Garhi Shahu.

“We apprised the parents about the girl’s complaints of forced custody,” he claimed, adding that they offered resistance and sought time to convince Farah, but handed her over after she refused to stay.

Farah was escorted to the police station where she submitted a written statement that she was willing to go back to Italy, Mehdi said. She submitted the same statement to the district and sessions judge later when she was presented in court.

“She said her parents refused to give back her passport and other travel documents when she told them that she did not want to live with them,” PCSW’s Qureshi quoted Farah as saying.

The Italian embassy had Farah picked up from the court and taken to Islamabad on May 19, he said. About the travel documents, he said Farah could only manage to get a copy of her passport from her parents. “She flew back to Italy on Friday,” he added.

Meanwhile, Farah’s parents expressed annoyance over the way the government recovered their daughter, and criticised local laws in such sensitive matters.

“What the media in Pakistan and Italy did in this case is shameful. They ran photos and stories of my young daughter without our version and discussed her in objectionable words destroying the image of our family,” said Farah’s mother.

Talking to Dawn, she denied allegations of forced custody and abortion of her daughter, saying Farah was living with them in Pakistan of her own free will.

“We suggested to police and the representatives of the interior ministry to keep Farah in Darul Aman or any other such place for some time to counsel her,” the mother claimed. “We are leaving for Italy next week to fight the case of Farah’s custody.”

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2018

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