MEP’s key role in homecoming

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PENDLE politician Mr Sajjad Karim is delighted he has been successful in arranging for a young girl to return home from Pakistan after she was taken there by her father more than three years ago.

Mr Karim, a former Pendle councillor who is now a North-West Conservative MEP, is really pleased at the safe return of abducted child Atiya Anjum Wilkinson.

And he was featured as a lead item on national TV news following his successful campaign.

Atiya was snatched by her father and taken to Pakistan against her mother’s wishes when she was aged just three over three years ago.

Since then, her mum Gemma Wilkinson has had no information about her daughter – not even if she was still alive.

Her father Razuan Anjum is in prison, having been jailed four consecutive times for refusing to tell the High Court where he had taken Atiya and who she was with.

In recent weeks, Mr Karim has been assisting Greater Manchester Police and working with Pakistani officials to identify Atiya’s whereabouts.

In November, he raised the matter with the Pakistani Foreign Minister in the European Parliament, who pledged her support.

This was followed by intervention with the Chief Minister of the Punjab and other contacts in Pakistan.

A few weeks later, having checked a number of possible locations, the Pakistani authorities were able to confirm, on Christmas Eve, that they had found Atiya living with extended family at an address in the Punjab.

Mr Karim said: “I was delighted to be able to assist GMP to bring this case to a satisfactory fruition.

“The two Greater Manchester Police officers who have provided continued support for this case for over three years but the real credit goes to Atiya’s mum, Gemma, who never gave up.

“I am also very grateful to the Pakistani authorities who did the work on the ground to locate Atiya.

“While we are all overjoyed at Atiya’s safe return to the UK and although her uncle escorted her back home, we must remember that this Rochdale-based family have cruelly refused to give the police any information, putting Gemma, her mother Lois and their family though three years of torture with several false alarms and raised hopes when the Anjums said Atiya would be brought home, and wasn’t.

“Had this additional pressure by the Police, Pakistani officials and myself not been placed on the family, particularly in Pakistan, I have no doubt we would not have Atiya home today.”

There are concerns at the growing number of kidnappings and abductions of EU and British national. Mr Karim will continue to work to raise awareness of this acute problem.