Dua Zehra moved back to Karachi from Lahore, placed in child protection centre

Published July 24, 2022
A photo of Dua Zehra with police personnel. — Photo by author
A photo of Dua Zehra with police personnel. — Photo by author

Dua Zehra — a Karachi girl who was reported as kidnapped in April but later found to have purportedly 'eloped' in Punjab — was brought back to her hometown on Sunday, her father's counsel confirmed.

Advocate Sher Jatt told Dawn.com that Dua was moved to a child protection centre in Karachi and will be produced before the relevant court.

A day ago, a judicial magistrate in Lahore had allowed the Sindh police to take Dua's custody from Darul Aman and safely produce her before a Karachi trial court.

Magistrate Rizwan Ahmad passed the order after hearing the contention of a police official from Sindh and a counsel of the girl’s father.

The official had stated that there was a case registered with the Karachi police about her alleged abduction. He said the Sindh High Court and a judicial magistrate had ordered the police to recover the girl and produce her before the trial court on August 1.

The magistrate allowed the request and also directed the police team to ensure that no person from both sides — the girl and her purported husband’s family — would get a chance to meet her till her production before the magistrate in Karachi.

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 home 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 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 to approach the relevant forums for the constitution of a medical board. Subsequently, a judicial magistrate in Karachi ordered the constitution of another board to determine Dua's age.

On July 4, the medical board concluded that Dua was between 15 to 16 years of age. In the report, the medical board concluded that consensus opinion was that Dua's overall age was between 15-16 years, nearer to 15 based on physical examination and dentition.

In a dramatic turn, police on July 16 informed a sessions court in Karachi that 24 persons, including Zaheer, had been found involved in abducting her from Karachi and shifting her to Punjab, where they solemnised the illegal child marriage.

Following this, Dua approached a Lahore court on July 19 requesting to be sent to Darul Aman, citing “constant threats” from her parents while also underlining that she was “not on good terms” with Zaheer. The court accepted her application and she was shifted to the shelter home.

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