DUBAI: Around this time -- on April 4, 2011 to be precise -- Lithuanian expat Maimouna Liskauskaite’s Pakistani husband Jamshed Siddique told her he was taking their daughters Mariam 7, Aisha, 5, and Amna, 3, to Safa Park for an evening stroll.
It will take seven years of relentless torment and heartache before she’d see them again.
Her husband never took the girls to the park. Instead, he bundled the Lithuanian passport-holders on a plane to Pakistan and disappeared.
End of ordeal?. Maimouna showing a photo-album of her daughters Mariam, Ayesha and Amna during an interview at the XPRESS office in May 2017. Photo: Javed Nawab/XPRESS
Maimouna was still reeling from the shock when four days later Siddique couriered her divorce papers and her in-laws asked her to vacate their Jumeirah villa.
Maimouna was homeless and had barely enough money to sustain herself when XPRESS reported her plight in a cover story on June 16, 2011.
But her determination to get her daughters back never wavered.
In fact, an XPRESS story which helped Indian woman Zainab Fawad reunite with her twin boys stranded in Pakistan for nearly three years, steeled her resolve, even if it meant travelling to Pakistan and camping before the Supreme Court in Islamabad to seek justice.
On Monday, her dreams came true when Pakistan’s highest court heard her plea and granted her interim custody of the kids.
“I am the happiest woman in the world today. Praise be to Allah who made this possible,” Maimouna, 37, said over the phone from Pakistan.
Lahore-based human rights lawyer Hassan Niazi who represented her said the girls will be in Maimouna’s custody for 14 days. “However, Maimouna will have to live with them in Gujranwala as her daughters’ school is located there. As per court directives, her ex-husband will arrange their accommodation and school pick up and drop. The court has called both parties on April 18. The case hinges on the opinion of the girls,” he said.
On March 30, Maimona had made an appeal to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar seeking recovery of her daughters.
In her petition, she had alleged that the girls were in the illegal custody of her ex-husband who lived in a bachelors’ hostel in Gujranwala, a city in Punjab, while her daughters were holed up in a small village in Deira Ghazi Khan, “completely deprived of motherly love”.
The petition also cited an October 2013 Dubai Court order granting her custody of the kids.
The CJP accepted her plea after office hours and ordered the district police officer of Gujranwala to present the minors, now ages 13, 11 and 9, before the court on April 2.
Hordes of media gathered outside the court building on Monday as a three-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan and comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandiyal and Justice Ejazul Ahsan, began hearing the petition.
During the hearing CJP Saqib Nisar asked the girls if they had met their mother. The eldest, Mariam, responded: “I don’t even know her.”
When the bench directed court officials to arrange a meeting between the children and their mother, Mariam insisted her father should also be present in the meeting.
“This is your upbringing?” asked Justice Nisar. “You have poisoned their minds,” he said.
The top court said that they have no sympathy for Siddique.
“A mother could not see her children for seven years,” the court remarked.
Justice Nisar observed that the father had not even made the effort to have the daughters speak to their mother via video calls.
“Why should we not lodge an FIR against the man?” he asked.
“In the meantime, custody of the minors should not be removed from the jurisdiction of this court. In this regard, directions be issued to the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan to ensure compliance of order,” said the court order. The bench also directed Gujranwala police to serve the court’s notice to Maimouna’s ex-husband.
“I have been living a nightmare every minute since April 2011 when my little princesses were flown to Pakistan without my knowledge. I am thankful to XPRESS for highlighting my story which drew the attention of not just Pakistan media but also eminent human rights lawyer-activist Hassan Niazi and his team at Blackstone School of Law. I am also indebted to Pakistani lawyers Faisal Fareed Hussain, Ahmed Nawaz Chaudhury and Tina Thappar of Dubai-based Midfa and Associates, all of whom went out of their way to help me,” she said.
Maimouna, formerly known as Edita, met Dubai-born Siddique in the mid-90s when he came to her home country Lithuania to study medicine. In January 2003, she embraced Islam and the same month she married Siddique who gave her a new name -- Maimouna.
Between 2004 and 2008, the couple had three children.
In January 2010, the family moved to Dubai to live with Siddiqui’s father at his Jumeirah villa. “We got a residence visa, but Siddique couldn’t land a job with a hospital in Dubai and we started having fights. Who would have thought he would run away with our daughters,” said Maimouna who works as a teacher at a pre-school in Dubai.
“The pain of separation from my girls was so intense, I almost lost my sanity. But being in the midst of children helped. Some of the kids are the age of Amna who was just three years old when she was snatched away,” added Maimouna who also runs a Facebook group “Looking for My 3 Daughters” to drum up support.
‘Looking for My 3 Daughters’
Story so far
1996: Maimouna, formerly known as Edita, meets Dubai-born Pakistan national Jamshed Siddique while he is studying medicine in her home country Lithuania.
January 2, 2003: She embraces Islam and her husband gives her a new name — Maimouna
January 17, 2004: The couple get married in Lithuania
October 2004-April 2008: The couple has three daughters — Mariam, Aisha and Amna
December 2010: The family travels to Dubai to live with J.S.’ father in his Jumeirah villa
April 4, 2011: Maimouna’s hubby tells her he’s taking their daughters to Safa Park but instead flies with them to Pakistan and disappears
April 8, 2011: Maimouna is divorced from Pakistan
June 16, 2011: XPRESS reports on Maimouna’s plight in a cover story
December 17, 2013: Dubai Court grants her custody of her kids
February 23, 2018: Maimouna travels to Pakistan and files petition in Lahore High Court for custody of kids. The children are produced in court but Maimouna is not allowed to meet them
March 30, 2018: Maimouna revisits Pakistan and petitions Pakistan’s chief justice Mian Saquib Nisar seeking custody of kids. Pakistan Supreme Court takes note of her plea and orders DPO Gujranwala to present the kids
April 2, 2018: After a seven-year-long wait, Maimouna finally gets to meet her kids.
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