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Dua Zehra case: Father approaches SHC seeking recovery of daughter from alleged husband’s ‘illegal custody’

Dua Zehra case: Father approaches SHC seeking recovery of daughter from alleged husband’s ‘illegal custody’

The father of Dua Zehra, the girl who was reported missing from Karachi on April 16 and was recovered from Punjab on June 5, filed a fresh petition with the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday in which urged the court to issue directions for her recovery from the “illegal custody” of her alleged husband Zaheer Ahmed.

The petition, which has not yet been fixed for hearing, comes a day after a medical board formed to determine Dua’s age concluded she was between 15 to 16 years of age.

Dua has maintained that she is 18 years of age and claims she contracted marriage with Zaheer of her own accord, while her parents have insisted that she is a minor.

In the fresh plea, Dua’s father Mehdi Ali Kazmi contended that his daughter was a victim of child marriage, adding that Zaheer took her to Punjab in order to marry her which was illegal.

The Sindh police inspector general, additional inspector general, station house officer (Alfalah police station), DSP Shoukat Ali Shahani, the federation of Pakistan and Zaheer were named as respondents.

The petition noted that an earlier medical board constituted to determine Dua’s age had concluded that she was around 17.

“However, another medical board was formed whose report stated that the age of Dua is below 16 years and her wedding is illegal under the Punjab Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 2016,” the petition said.

“The detenu (Dua) being a minor under 16 years of age and prima facie victim of kidnapping, ought to be restored to the custody of her natural guardian, ie the petitioner,” it stated.

It also went on to say that any sexual act committed by Zaheer with Dua shall entail consequences under Section 375(v) ((rape: with or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Kazmi urged the court to direct the respondents to recover his daughter from Zaheer’s “illegal detention” and to ensure she is handed over to her parents.

He also requested the court to ensure Dua is not issued a passport and for her to be barred from leaving Pakistan “through any travel route”.

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.

On Monday, the medical board had concluded that Dua was between 15 to 16 years of age.

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