A six-year-old girl flew back to Britain for an emotional reunion with her mother on Friday more than three years after she was abducted by her father and taken to Pakistan.
Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson disappeared in November 2009 after going to stay with her father, Razwan Ali Anjum.
The former insurance salesman told the girl’s mother, Gemma Wilkinson, that he was taking Atiya to Southport in northwest England but instead took her to the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.
He told his former partner that she was “never going to see Atiya again”.
The girl flew back to Manchester Airport in northwest England on Friday after Pakistani authorities found her following an appeal by a British member of the European parliament.
Speaking shortly after her arrival her mother broke down in tears and told reporters she was “overwhelmed” to see her daughter again after three years.
“I am just absolutely overwhelmed at seeing Atiya now and giving her a cuddle and a massive kiss. I am just absolutely overwhelmed,” she said.
Wilkinson said Atiya “looks exactly the same as she did three years ago, she is just taller and a bit older.”
“We have gone from not knowing where Atiya is to finding out that we do know where Atiya is, to receiving pictures of Atiya and how she looks now, to Atiya coming here and Atiya actually being here. It’s just been an absolute whirlwind.”
Anjum is currently serving a prison sentence in Britain for refusing to reveal his daughter’s whereabouts despite a court order.
Just last month her 32-year-old mother launched a fresh appeal for information about her daughter, and it emerged that she discovered her daughter had been found on Christmas Day.
Sajjad Karim, a British member of the European parliament, said he had used his contacts with the Pakistani authorities to persuade them to help and also spoke to the Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar when she visited the parliament recently.
He said Pakistani authorities had been “completely unaware” of the child’s presence in the country until they were alerted.
Anjum, who is in his late 20s, was given a fourth consecutive jail term by a High Court judge in April after he refused to reveal where his daughter was.
He indicated that Atiya was in Pakistan or Iran but said he did not know her exact whereabouts, a claim which the judge in the case said was “absurd”.
Another judge has previously said the case was “as bad a case of child abduction as I have encountered”.
It is thought Atiya was found after police issued a computer-generated image of what Atiya would look like now — a day before her sixth birthday in November.
Her mother said on Friday she had had some fears that Atiya would be unsettled by her return to Britain but was relieved to find that she was “absolutely fine”.
“She is trying to communicate and she is playing with the things that we have bought for her. She’s settled,” she said.
Describing the moment they were reunited, Wilkinson said: “She had a big smile on her face. Atiya was told that I was mummy and she said ‘Mummy’ and smiled.”