International child abduction to Pakistan


January 7, 2016

Source: Daily Times by Sarmad Ali

Pakistan has not taken any steps to prevent Pakistani citizens settled aboard from bringing their children to Pakistan during divorce or separation proceedings despite an increase in international child abduction.
PAKISTAN-Lahore
Child abduction, child abuse, forced marriages and rapes are widespread problems in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. According to media reports, the number of international child abduction cases has increased across the world over the period of the last eight years. For instance, a total of 512 cases involving 84 different countries were reported to British authorities in 2011 and 2012 as opposed to 272 in 51 countries in 2003 and 2004. Moreover, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) observes that a quarter of people do not think that it is a crime for a parent to take their children out of habitual residence without the consent and permission of the other parent.
It is important to understand the various kinds of child abduction around the world. The most feared type of abduction is committed by a complete stranger. This form of child abduction takes place when a stranger abducts a child for ransom, something that is generally very common in Pakistan, or abducted for the purpose of transporting the child abroad for wrongful activities. A less common kind of abduction could be where a stranger removes a child to bring up that child as that person’s own. However, the kind of child abduction that is committed most commonly is done by a parent or close relatives of the child (200,000 cases in 2010 alone). Usually, the perpetrator/abductor believes he or she is committing this crime for the good of the child. This sort of child abduction mostly occurs where there is a separation and/or divorce battle going on between the parents of that child. The abductor takes the child to a different place within the same city or same region of the same country.

International child abduction is where the parent takes the child out of his/her ordinary habitual residence to prevent the other parent from access to the child. The parent generally leaves the country of habitual residence along with the child ignoring visitation orders and/or in violation of custody. That action of the parent is considered an international child abduction or transnational child abduction. While this is not a new phenomenon, the incidence of international child abduction continues to increase due to the ease of international travel, increase in bi-cultural marriages and a high divorce rate. In effect, parental abduction has been defined as child abuse.

I have noted that there is no basic and formal data available concerning international child abduction. The issue of international abduction is not specific to any country as it is widespread all over the world but it is more prevalent in Asia, particularly in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Through unofficial channels I have found that there were 11 cases of international child abduction reported between Pakistan and the UK in 2008, 24 cases from April 2009 to March 2010 and 55 cases in 2011. Some individual cases of international child abduction were also reported between France and Pakistan and between Canada and Pakistan. The research conducted by Reunite International Child Abduction Centre revealed that most children abducted from Europe and the US are commonly taken to the Middle East, Pakistan and India by one of their parents.

Pakistani_Child

The findings of international non-profit organisations show that Pakistan is a safe haven where in the past few years, children from Europe and other parts of the world have been taken by their own parents. This increase in cases of international child abduction in Pakistan is because of the increase in multicultural marriages between Pakistani men and women of foreign origin. During divorce proceedings, these men bring their children to Pakistan in order to keep the children away from their non-Pakistani mothers. Pakistan has not taken any steps to prevent Pakistani citizens settled aboard from bringing their children to Pakistan during divorce or separation proceedings despite this increase in international child abduction. The only positive move in this regard was taken in 2013 by the then caretaker government’s minister of law, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a lawyer by profession, when he pledged to address the issue of international child abduction after news that 40 children had been abducted to Pakistan from the UK broke.

The issue of international child abduction is difficult to resolve due to the involvement of conflicting international jurisdictions. It is worthwhile to note that laws dealing with child abduction may differ from country to country; for instance, child abduction may not constitute a criminal act where the child is taken by a parent but it may constitute a criminal offence from where the child is abducted. For example, taking a child out of the UK for more than 28 days without the consent and/or permission of the other the parent constitutes a criminal offence.

In view of the discussion above I believe that Pakistan should treat international child abduction as a high priority problem so as to prevent children from being sent or taken to Pakistan in violation of the law. In order to do so, Pakistan, in connivance with all the stakeholders, should raise public awareness to build a case for the ratification of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction that deals with international child abduction. Pakistan has already signed judicial cooperation protocol with the UK way back in 2006 for preventing UK children from being taken to Pakistan by their parents on account of martial disputes and conflicts. The Hague Convention is a complete code and provides a platform to promptly bring back children taken away from their country of habitual residence by their parent ignoring visitation decree or in violation of custody. If Pakistan ratifies The Hague Convention I am sure international child abduction will decrease and the action of ratification will also promote legal uniformity and harmony with those countries that have already ratified it.

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