Court orders girl back to UK

Published November 30, 2006

LAHORE, Nov 29: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday ordered that Misbah Iram Rana, a 12-year-old British-Pakistani national, must return to her mother and said that the British High Commission should make arrangements for her travel to Scotland.

The schoolgirl, whose Christian name was Molly Campbell, sparked an international custody fight after she fled her mother's home at Stornoway in Scotland’s remote Western Isles in August to be with her father in Pakistan.

(According to a report AFP news agency filed from London, the girl’s mother said she was astonished to hear the court decision. “I was speechless. I could not believe it,” she said. “It took some time to acknowledge that the judge actually said what he did.”

Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in a short order directed the girl’s father Sajjad Ahmad Rana to hand over the girl and her British and Pakistani passports to a senior woman official of the high commission within seven days so that she could be sent to her mother Louise Anne Fairely.

Accepting the habeas corpus petition filed by Ms Fairely, the court observed that Mr Rana had violated the orders of a sessions court of Scotland by bringing his daughter to Pakistan clandestinely after he had said before the jurisdiction of that court in an undertaking that he would not remove the girl away from the custody of her mother.

In the petition, Ms Fairely said that Mr Rana had abducted Molly in a deceitful manner and that she was being kept by her former husband in illegal custody. She requested the court to recover her daughter and issue directions to the government to repatriate her to her own habitual residence in Scotland.

Justice Nisar said that when he had a chat with Misbah she had no perception about ‘halal’ and ‘haram’ and could not distinguish between the two. She also did not know how to offer prayers according to Islamic injunctions.

The LHC held that Mr Rana had admitted before the Scottish courts that Misbah was the habitual resident of Scotland and it established that the Scottish court could competently decide the custody dispute.

The order said that courts in Scotland had already passed two orders and her father surrendered to the jurisdiction of courts there by undertaking that he would not remove the child from the custody of her mother. But he brought her to Pakistan without approaching the competent court and violated the orders of Scottish courts. This removal is flagrantly illegal, deceitful and a dishonest act, the court observed.

The court held that Mr Rana had not been an upright, fair and honest man in this

case and was guilty of showing disrespect to the court's orders, which was tantamount to fraud. And thus he could not be allowed to have the premium of such fraud.

The court also held that the minor had expressed her views through the media and before the court that she did not want to go back to Scotland and live with her mother, rather she would stay with her father in Pakistan. But the reasons given by her that she was being prevented by the petitioner from leading her life according to the Islamic virtues seem to be tutored. At present, she was under the influence of her father and elder sister and thus her opinion could not be given much importance.

Witnesses said the girl burst into tears and several of her relatives wept when they heard that the court had upheld an appeal by her mother.

Mr Rana said that outside the court building that he and his daughter were “devastated” and vowed to appeal.

“I don't want to comment on the court verdict but I feel devastated by the judgment. I will go to appeal in the Supreme Court within seven days,” Mr Rana told reporters.

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