MP jets to Pakistan over custody battle

TUG-OF-LOVE: A British MP plunged headfirst into an emotional custody battle over a 12-year-old Scottish girl who was taken to Pakistan by her father last week


Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 4

A British Muslim lawmaker flew to Pakistan on Thursday in an effort to help defuse a custody battle over a 12-year-old girl taken by her father to the South Asian nation against her mother's wishes.

Mohammad Sarwar, a lawmaker from the Scottish city of Glasgow, boarded a flight for the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore after meeting with Louise Campbell, who pleaded for the return of her daughter, Molly, during an emotional news conference on Tuesday.

"The father has assured me that I will be given access to speak to Molly," Sarwar told reporters. "Hopefully, I will be able to open a communication channel."

Police in the Scottish city of Inverness said the young girl, also known as Misbah Iram Ahmed Rana, left Glasgow on an Emirates flight last week with her father, Sajad Ahmed Rana, and an elder sister.

Louise Campbell gained custody of the child following a 2001 divorce, and police said the case could be a violation of the Child Abduction Act. British and Pakistani judiciary officials signed a 2003 protocol to return abducted children to their home country.

Pakistan Embassy spokesman Imran Gardezi said in London that he was not aware of any requests under the protocol, but that Pakistan would "act accordingly if approached."

Bashir Mann, the president of the National Association of British Pakistanis, defended Rana, saying the girl had decided to go to Pakistan because she missed her father, and that media reports alleging she would participate in an arranged marriage with an older Pakistani man were "totally rubbish."

"She went of her own free will," he told Sky News.

Mann, who said he was a friend of the father, insisted that Rana would allow the daughter to return if she wished. He blamed the media for inflaming a domestic dispute.