KARACHI / LAHORE: A teenage girl who went missing from Karachi in April and later surfaced in Punjab was recovered on Sunday in a joint operation by Sindh and Punjab police.

Dua Zehra, 14, went missing from her home in the Al-Falah area in April, but later surfaced in Punjab after reportedly marrying Zaheer Ahmed.

A team of the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) of Lahore police recovered the couple during a raid at the home of Mr Ahmed’s uncle in Chishtian city of Bahawalnagar district early on Sunday.

The girl’s parents lodged a case in Karachi on April 16, alleging that their daughter was kidnapped and forced into child marriage.

Ten days later, Ms Zehra appeared on the media along with Zaheer Ahmed and announced they had married in Lahore. She denied that she was kidnapped and alleged that her parents were lying about her age as she was 18 years old.

‘Husband’ also taken into custody; both were hiding for last seven days in Chishtian

The Lahore CIA police chief, SP Asim Iftikhar Kamboh, told Dawn that Ms Zehra had been hiding at the home of her uncle Zaheer Ahmed for the last seven days in a Chishtian village.

He said four special investigation and police teams worked on the high-profile case. The raid was carried out after a CIA team, headed by inspector Nabi Baksh, got credible information about the couple’s presence in Chishtian early on Sunday.

A team was immediately dispatched that surrounded the suspect’s house and then raided and recovered the couple.

In reply to a question, SP Kamboh said the team had taken help from call records of two suspects who were taken into custody from Lah­ore’s Johar Town neighbourhood during a raid. He said the raid was carried out by the CIA police based on information that the couple was present at a house in Johar Town, Lahore.

Later, the suspects told the police that the couple had already left the place. The police obtained call detail records (CDRs) of the suspects’ mobile phone numbers and kept tracing the couple’s next locations.

Finally, the CIA team traced their last location and arrested them from Chishtian, SP Kamboh said.

He said the police handed over the couple to a Karachi police team, which was already present in Lahore for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, after a complaint from Sindh police, Okara police chief Umer Saeed Malik suspended Haveli Lakha SHO Inspector Malik Shahbaz for not cooperating with the Sindh police team, which reached the town on Saturday to arrest the nikahkhwan (marriage officiant) and others involved in the Dua Zehra case.

In Karachi, Anti-Violent Crime Cell SSP Zubair Nazeer Shaikh said Ms Zehra had been taken into protective custody. She would be brought to Karachi and likely to be presented before a court on Monday (today). He said the police had difficulty in tracing the girl as the couple frequently changed places and never used cell phones.

“They changed two homes in Lahore, moved to Mansehra and changed homes there too,” he said, confirming that they were finally recovered from Chishtian with the help of Lahore’s CIA.

He said Ms Zehra’s father was informed of her recovery but wasn’t allowed to meet her until the court decided the matter.

A separate statement issued by the Karachi police spokesperson said Zaheer Ahmed — the man who is said to have contracted marriage with Ms Zehra — had also been recovered. The two would be presented before the Sindh High Court in accordance with its directives.

The statement said the raid was conducted at midnight using modern technology.

Seven police teams led by CIA DIG Karim Khan had been on the hunt for the couple in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir for the past 15 days, the statement said. Karachi police also expressed gratitude for their counterparts in Lahore. Moreover, Karachi police chief Javed Odho announced a cash reward and appreciation certificates for the DIG CIA and his team.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the CIA Karachi revealed that the police had conducted 45 raids and arrested 16 people during the investigation into the case.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2022

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