CAMDEN: A Pakistani woman whose two-year search for her missing sons culminated in a reunion in southern New Jersey can fly home to London with the boys.
Judge Renee Marie Bumb ordered federal marshals to protect Uzma Shafqat and her 8-year-old twins when they depart from Philadelphia International Airport on Thursday, The Courier-Post reported.
A report on a local website, quoting court papers, said Uzma gave birth to the boys in 2007, while living with her husband’s extended family in Pakistan. The boys’ father, Shafqat Mahmood Malik, allegedly asked the mother to give one of the babies to his sister and brother-in-law, who were not able to have their own children.
When Uzma declined, the report said, she had to suffer “physical, emotional and financial abuse” at the hands of her husband and his family. The abuse continued even after the family moved to London in 2011, the report said.
The boys’ father allegedly abducted the twins in London and took them to his native Pakistan when their mother was hospitalised in October 2013. They were found in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, last month living with their father and some relatives.
Stephen Cullen, the mother’s attorney, said Malik had been preparing to take them to Pakistan, where they would be out of the reach of international law in child-abduction cases.
A big break came last year when a Pakistani tipster notified authorities that the father had taken the boys to the Albany, New York, area.
“We rushed up there, but somehow they found out we were on to them,” Cullen said.
US marshals were then able to track the twins to Gloucester Township, where they were removed from Blackwood Elementary School by federal agents.
Malik, who did not oppose Bumb’s order, said he reserves the right “to assert my defences to the underlying custodial proceedings in the United Kingdom.”
Cullen said a British court has already awarded custody of the boys to the mother, but Malik could seek visitation rights.
“Uzma never gave up hope and continued the fight to be reunited with her sons, sometimes against what seems insurmountable odds,” said Anne Marie Hutchinson, an attorney for a British non-profit that helped reunify the family.