Lahore court sends Dua Zehra to women's shelter at her request

Published July 19, 2022
A file photo of Dua Zehra being taken to a court by Karachi police. — DawnNewsTV
A file photo of Dua Zehra being taken to a court by Karachi police. — DawnNewsTV

A district and sessions court in Lahore on Tuesday sent Dua Zehra — a Karachi girl who was reported kidnapped in April and later discovered to have purportedly eloped in Punjab — to the Darul Aman (shelter home) at her request.

Dua had submitted an application with the court, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, in which she requested to be sent to Darul Aman, citing "constant threats" from her parents while also underlining that she was "not on good terms" with Zaheer Ahmed, the person said to have contracted a marriage with her.

Responding to her petition, Judicial Magistrate Rizwan Ahmad said Dua submitted a plea with the court saying she had "serious threats from parents and other relatives".

"She is in constant danger from her parents who use to tender severe beating her (sic) and threaten [her] with dire consequences [...] keeping in view the above consideration, the petitioner's plea is accepted and she be sent to Darul Aman, Lahore," the magistrate said in his order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.

A police official privy to the development confirmed to Dawn.com that the girl had been sent to the shelter home after court orders. He said he was not authorised to speak to the media but said the police had implemented the orders.

Salman Sufi, the head of the prime minister's strategic reforms unit, said on Twitter that the Punjab government "has secured Dua Zehra at Darul Aman under strict security and protection after a court order".

He added that the Sindh government has been "requested to dispatch a child protection bureau team to take her to her parents" and that "Mr Zaheer is being traced for arrest".

He also tagged Jibran Nasir, the lawyer of Dua's parents, in the tweet.

'Allegations against parents not new'

Separately, Jibran Nasir, told Dawn.com that her allegations against them were not new as they were made in previous statements too.

He, however, said what was more concerning were the accusations she made regarding her alleged marriage.

He thanked the Punjab police for ensuring that Dua stayed under security at the shelter home.

Investigation officer changed

Meanwhile, a sessions court in Karachi directed the Additional IG (investigation) to change the police officer investigating the case.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (East) Muhammad Mehboob Awan passed these directives while allowing a ‘second’ application filed by Dua’s father, Syed Ali Mehdi Kazmi, against the AIG (investigation) and East-SSP (investigation) for not entertaining his requests to change incumbent IO, DSP Shoukat Ali Shahani.

The case

On April 16, Dua's parents filed a first information report alleging that their daughter had been kidnapped when she left the house to dispose of some trash. The incident had provoked an outcry, especially on social media, which had prompted authorities to take notice.

After nearly 10 days, on April 26, the teenage girl was recovered from Okara. In a video statement that day, Dua had said that she wasn't kidnapped and had married Zaheer of her "free will".

She had said that she had left her house of her own accord. "I have married out of free will. No one forced me. I'm happy with my husband here. For God's sake, don't bother me," she had stated.

Dua had also claimed that her parents were lying about her age.

Subsequently, she and Zaheer approached a Lahore district and sessions court and filed a petition against Dua's father and cousin.

Meanwhile, the police had also filed a plea in court demanding that Dua be sent to Darul Aman. However, the magistrate rejected the request and allowed the teenager "to go wherever she wanted to".

On the other hand, Dua's parents were adamant that their daughter had been kidnapped and said that she had been forced to give the statement.

The teenager's father had also approached the SHC in May with a plea against the Punjab court's orders. Kazmi had stated in the petition that as per her educational, birth certificates and other records, Dua's age was 13 and under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 it was illegal to marry a minor.

He had asked the court to order a medical examination of his daughter. In the following days, Karachi police repeatedly failed to produce the teenager in court earning the judges' ire.

On June 6, the SHC had ordered an ossification to determine Dua's age. She was also sent to a shelter home for the time being after she refused to meet her parents.

Two days later, the court ruled that the teenager was at liberty to decide who she wanted to live with. During the hearing, the IO filed his report along with an age certificate issued by the office of the police surgeon which stated that as per the opinion of doctors and the Civil Hospital’s department of radiology, the bone age of the alleged abductee was between 16 and 17 years of age.

In its order, the bench said the petition had served its purpose as it was only to the extent of the whereabouts of the alleged minor/abductee.

Later, Kazmi challenged the verdict in the SC, which had in turn asked him approach the relevant forums for the constitution of a medical board. Subsequently, a judicial magistrate in Karachi had ordered the constitution of another board to determine Dua's age.

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