The Lahore High Court on Friday hand over an 11-year-old girl to her French mother after recovering her from the Pakistani father’s illegal custody. The girl was recovered from a hospital at the time she was visiting her father who had recently suffered a heart attack.
The matter had been before the court since 2009, when Amina Tarar’s father, Abdul Razzaq Tarar, had filed a petition seeking her custody.
During Friday’s proceedings, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik ruled that the law did not allow the father the child’s custody at this age. Overruling the girl’s plea for being allowed to live with her father, the judge observed that the court had to act in line with the law irrespective of the child’s sentiments.
The petitioner’s counsel, Advocate Bushra Qamar, said her client and his daughter were Muslims, while the respondent, Ingrid Brandon Burger, was a Christian. She argued that a Muslim child could not be given a non-Muslim’s custody. She claimed that the father had been taking proper care of the child. She said the girl too did not want to be sent to live with the mother.
Respondent’s counsel Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told the court that the father had been holding the girl in defiance of orders of a French custody court as well as a Pakistan court that had both granted custody to the mother. He alleged that the petitioner was trying to mislead the court by hiding facts.
Earlier, the petitioner had told the court that he had married Burger in France in 1999. After the birth of their daughter, the relationship between him and his wife had deteriorated and he had brought the girl to Pakistan with his former wife’s consent. He had requested the court to grant him custody of the daughter.
Burger said the petitioner had “secretly” brought the girl to Pakistan in 2005 after she had been granted the child’s custody by a French court. She said she had then filed another custody case in a family court in Pakistan, where again she was granted the custody. Razzaq’s appeal against the order was dismissed in 2008, but he still did not let go and in 2009 filed a petition before the LHC seeking court directions in his favour.
On her application, three days ago, the girl was recovered from Razzaq’s custody and brought before the court in the absence of her father and was handed over to the mother.
Burger’s counsel told The Express Tribune that his client would take her daughter back to France in a few days.
This is the second case of international parental child custody involving a French citizen in three years, where LHC awarded custody to the mother. In 2009, a high profile case of a French mother, Peggy Collin, emerged in media. Collin campaigned for the recovery of her minor son from the father. With the support of rights activists, Collin, launched a campaign through media.
She now lives in Paris with her son and has been helping Burger in the search for her daughter in Pakistan, also with the help of the French Embassy. Once the case got public attention, the Punjab government intervened to help the recovery of Collin’s son.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RABIA MEHMOOD
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2012.
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