A sessions court on Wednesday granted bail to suspect Shahrukh Najeeb, who had been detained for allegedly abducting a Karachi-based girl Nimra Kazmi and solemnising underage marriage with her in Punjab.

Kazmi went missing from her Saudabad home in April and later emerged in Dera Ghazi Khan claiming that she had solemnised a free-will marriage with Najeeb.

The recent cases of disappearances of Dua Zehra — the teenage girl who was reported missing from Karachi's Shah Faisal Colony on April 16 and was recovered from Bahawalnagar on June 5 — and Kazmi from Karachi and their purported marriages in Punjab had exposed the Sindh and Punjab police to strong criticism on social media and sparked debates on poor enforcement of laws restricting marriages of girls under 18.

On June 8, the Sindh High Court ruled that Zehra was free to decide her fate.

In the case of Kazmi, Najeeb was arrested from Lahore on charges of abducting the girl from Karachi and "marrying" her in April.

Today, the detained suspect moved an application before the Additional District and Sessions Judge (South) Faiza Khalil, seeking a grant of bail and his subsequent release from the prison.

Granting him a post-arrest bail against a surety of Rs50,000, the judge told the applicant to cooperate with the police in the investigation.

Earlier, defence counsel Muhammad Farooq argued that the girl had left her parents house in Karachi and travelled to Lahore, where she solemnised free-will marriage with Najeeb without any fear or duress.

He contended that, while recording her statement before a judicial magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the girl had not only denied her parents’ allegation of being kidnapped by Najeeb, but had also decided to go with and reside with her husband as an adult of 18 years.

Farooq further argued that since their marriage was executed in Punjab, where the sections of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 were not applicable, adding Section 365-B (kidnapping with intent to rape) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 3/4 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 were not applicable in the present case.

He pleaded to grant bail to the applicant, who had been behind the bars since his arrest from Taunsa Sharif in early May and later remanded in judicial custody at the Landhi prison. The counsel said his client's continuous detention infringed his rights of personal liberty and freedom enshrined in the Constitution.

The state prosecutor opposed the plea, alleging the girl’s statement recorded before the Lahore magistrate was under pressure and duress, and thus, it could not absolve the suspect from the charge of kidnapping her.

He argued that the Sindh Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 was applicable in the case and asked the judge to dismiss the bail plea.

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