Sara Sharif: UK and Pakistan courts tussle over siblings’ future

Sara Sharif
Image caption,Sara Sharif was found dead at her home on 10 August

By Caroline Davies in Lahore & Daniel Sandford and Helena Wilkinson in London

BBC News

Courts in the UK and Pakistan are involved in a complex legal tussle to decide what should happen to the siblings of Sara Sharif.

Sara, 10, was found dead at her home in Woking, Surrey, in August. Her father, stepmother and uncle deny her murder.

The overlapping cases will decide where the siblings should ultimately live, after they were taken to Pakistan.

They can now be reported after restrictions were lifted following an application by media organisations.

Since Sara Sharif was found dead there have been a series of hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

In those hearings Sara’s siblings were made wards of court, and the court ordered that they should be returned to the UK.

That led to Surrey County Council making an application to the High Court in Lahore in Pakistan to secure the children’s return to Britain.

The court processes in Pakistan and London are ongoing, and at the moment the children remain in Pakistan.

There had been a restriction on reporting that there is a legal process ongoing in London, but that has now been lifted following an application by the BBC, journalists Louise Tickle and Hannah Summers, and PA Media.

Childcare home

Sara Sharif’s father Urfan Sharif, her stepmother Beinash Batool and her uncle Faisal Malik all left the UK for Pakistan with her five siblings the day before she was found dead on 10 August.

The location of the three adults and five children was a mystery for five weeks. Then Pakistan police raided the house of the children’s grandfather, Muhammad Sharif, and found the children.

Muhammad Sharif told the BBC they had been staying there since the day they arrived in the country, looked after by their family.

A day after their discovery, a court ordered that the children be sent to live in a childcare home in Pakistan.

Their grandfather began fighting to gain full custody of the children through Pakistan’s courts.

The three adults who were not with the children flew back to the UK several days later and were arrested.

They were charged with murder and causing or allowing the death of a child. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Interim custody

On 19 October, Surrey Country Council asked the High Court in Lahore to allow them to bring the children, aged between one and 13, back to Surrey.

The court room in Lahore was packed with standing room only as multiple cases including criminal charges were heard.

The judge requested that all five children attend the case. They were initially kept in a back room until their case was heard.

After speaking to all parties in his chamber, the judge gave interim custody to the grandfather of the children.

The case has been heard several times in Pakistan since October and for now the children remain with Muhammad Sharif.

The case to decide their permanent custody is still pending.

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