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MP hits out at government over child abductions

July 1, 2008 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Asking the questions for Rochdale!MP hits out at government over child abductions

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen spoke on BBC Radio 4 programme 'Woman's Hour' last week to raise concerns over British children who are abducted abroad.

Mr Rowen started his campaign after being contacted by a Grandmother based in Rochdale whose grandchildren were abducted in Pakistan after her daughter split up with her husband.

Speaking on the programme Mr Rowen accused the UK Government of "...not doing enough to help people affected".

An agreement between the UK and Pakistan states that "...abducted children should be returned to their country of habitual residence." Mr Rowen believes that this agreement is not being enforced by the Pakistan Government and the UK Government are 'not being proactive enough' in ensuring that Pakistan adheres to it.

He told the BBC radio programme: "The Government are planning a Conference in Feburary 2009 to discuss some of these urgent issues but we can't wait until then. The Government's failure to tackle the Pakistan Government means that children currently abducted are in limbo and this needs sorting. The UK / Pakistan protocol is effectively toothless - if it can't be enforced then what's the point?"

The story started last year when one of Mr Rowen's constituents complained that her daughter, Asma Akhtar, was being held by her husband Mohammed Zahoor Akhtar, who had confiscated her four children's passports.

The family, who live in Banbury, Oxfordshire, went on holiday to Pakistan and Dubai on 6 April last year, but failed to return as planned on 26 April. After taking their passports Mr Akhtar obtained a court order in Pakistan preventing the removal of his children from the country.

Mr Rowen has raised the issue in Parliament with Foreign Office minister Kim Howell's MP. Mr Rowen continued: "We are hopeful that we can resolve this situation and raising the issue on programmes like Woman's Hour keeps the story in the headlines.

"We won't give up and I hope that this case will lead to more co-operation between the UK and Pakistan Governments so that we can protect children from being abducted in the future.

"There are an estimated 25 / 30 children currently being given no protection from a protocol that is rarely enforced and this is just the tip of the ice-berg."