Molly ordered to return to mother in UK

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The Independent Online

Runaway schoolgirl Molly Campbell is to return to the care of her mother in the UK, a Pakistani court ruled today.

The High Court in Lahore said the 12-year-old, also known as Misbah Rana, must be handed to the custody of the British High Commission within the next seven days.

She will then return to live with her mother Louise Campbell in the Western Isles, Scotland.

Molly has been at the centre of an international custody battle after running away to Pakistan to be with her father.

Speaking outside the court in Lahore, Sajad Ahmed Rana said: "I was very surprised and shocked by this decision. I must speak to my solicitor to see if we can appeal.

"Misbah is very devastated, she was crying, she is very upset. She doesn't want to go back to Scotland, she wants to stay here in Pakistan.

"She did not get a chance to address the court. She doesn't want to go back to Stornoway; her mother's partner used to shout at her."

An international hunt was triggered three months ago when Molly, who prefers to be known as Misbah, fled the Western Isles to live in Lahore.

Her mother has been fighting to get the youngster back with her in Stornoway.

Mrs Campbell, who did not attend the hearing, had lodged a legal petition in Pakistan claiming her daughter was taken there illegally by her former husband and eldest daughter.

Earlier this month, lawyers for Misbah challenged a continuing legal bid back in Scotland by her mother, who was awarded interim legal custody in the UK last year, for permanent custody of her daughter.

In legal papers submitted at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on November 17, Misbah became joint defender with her father against her mother's civil action. That case was suspended for six weeks to let Misbah seek legal aid.

The tug-of-love battle began after Misbah's 18-year-old sister Tahmina - who lives in Pakistan - met her outside her Stornoway school in August and went with her to the airport.

Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for the Western Isles, said: "This is a surprising decision but the case has been full of surprises from the very beginning.

"Speaking to the mother, Louise Campbell, recently, even she thought the deck was stacked against her and that her daughter would remain in Pakistan.

"I think Molly or Misbah's happiness should be the paramount, overriding factor here. It's a very difficult and unique circumstance."

Mr MacNeil said he was "saddened" by claims that Misbah had suffered racism in his constituency.

"Racism is to be condemned, no messing," he said. "But I'm sure this came from a minority as the vast majority of people in the Western Isles don't care about colour or creed."