ISLAMABAD: Members of a Supreme Court bench expressed surprise on Monday when they were informed that 151 abducted girls — all of them hailing from Sargodha — have been recovered by police from different areas of Punjab since Jan 5.

The information was furnished to the bench in a report submitted by Sargodha District Police Officer Dr Rizwan Ahmed Khan in a case that involved the mysterious abduction of one Sobia Batool.

Police even raided a number of prostitution dens in different areas and recovered 21 women, of which 11 were sent to Darul Aman, said the report submitted to the three-member bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar.

Batool has still not been found, but police have arrested 16 suspects.

The court had taken up a bail plea filed by Muhammad Umair, who faces charges of abducting Batool — the 18-year-old daughter of complainant Muhammad Ramzan.

The FIR of her disappearance, lodged at Shahpur Saddar police station in on Aug 28, 2020 said the accused, along with two others not only kidnapped the girl but also took away cash and gold ornaments worth Rs155,000.

Sargodha police at a loss over whereabouts of 18-year-old ‘kidnapped’ in 2020 despite having suspects in custody

The court rejected Umair’s bail plea and expressed concern over the abduction of so many girls from Sargodha. The court observed that such a situation had come to pass only due to the incompetence of police.

The Sargodha DPO told the bench that initially, the operation to recover the missing girls was carried out in Sargodha Division. Later, the court ordered the inspector general of Punjab police to step up measures to rescue the abducted girls from across Punjab and recover Batool as early as possible.

On Nov 13, 2020, Umair had procured pre-arrest bail from the court of additional sessions judge, but it was cancelled on Dec 1, 2020.

During interrogation, Umair conceded that Batool was his neighbour and they were in a relationship, adding that he had gifted her a mobile phone as well.

On Feb 6, 2021 co-accused Sarfraz Ahmed was arrested. Ahmed, who was on leave from his work on the day of the crime, remained in contact with Umair continuously, the police report said. Both of them remained on physical remand until Feb 15, 2021, but no clue regarding the girl was found.

The report explained that a proclamation containing the missing girl’s particulars was published and circulated amongst all inspectors general of police and inspector generals of prisons in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan to obtain information about her whereabouts.

Health departments of all provinces had also been asked to keep a lookout in case the girl was admitted to any hospital, or if there was any record of her death.

Letters were also dispatched to the local Darul Aman and Edhi Foundation, the report said, but no clue about Batool’s whereabouts could be found.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2022

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