The Sindh High Court on Wednesday ruled that Dua Zehra, the teenage girl who was reported missing from Karachi’s Shah Faisal Colony on April 16 and recovered from Bahawalnagar on June 5, was free to decide her fate.
Her parents had lodged a case in Karachi on April 16, alleging that their underage daughter was kidnapped.
Ten days later, Dua appeared on the media along with Zaheer Ahmed, the person she is said to have contracted marriage with, and announced they had married in Lahore. Her father, Mehdi Kazmi, subsequently produced documents before the media and said she was only 13 years old.
Dua, however, refuted the allegations that she had been kidnapped, and alleged that her parents were lying about her age, as she was 18 years old.
When she was first taken into custody on April 26, a Lahore court had allowed the teenager “to go wherever she wanted to and be set at liberty from the premises of the court as desired by her to go wherever she wants to”.
However, Dua’s parents were adamant that their daughter had been kidnapped and said she was forced to give the statement.
Her father approached the SHC last month with a plea against the Punjab court’s orders. Mehdi had stated in the petition that as per her educational documents, birth certificate and other records, Dua’s age was 13, and under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013, it was illegal to marry a minor/underage child.
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 before the court, earning the judges’ ire.
On Sunday, Dua and Zaheer were recovered from Chishtian, Bahawalnagar, and brought to Karachi, and they appeared before the court on Wednesday.
The court ruled in its written order that the girl could stay with whomever she wanted to. “She is completely free,” the judgement reads.
In the light of evidence furnished, it does not warrant a case of kidnapping, the court ruled.
The SHC directed the investigating officer of the case to submit a supplementary challan before the court.
The court also sought from the investigation officer a medical certificate and statement recorded in the Sindh High Court regarding the determination of the girl’s age.
Before wrapping up the petition, the SHC remarked that the trial court must continue its proceedings, adding it was the discretion of the Sindh government to present Dua in the Lahore High Court.
Before the pronouncement of the decision, the court permitted the parents of Dua to meet her for “10 minutes” earlier in the day.
“Search all persons and have Dua meet her parents in the chamber,” the judge directed the police during the hearing of the plea filed for her recovery.
Referring to the court’s directive from the previous hearing, the petitioner’s lawyer, Advocate Altaf Khosa, said he wanted to submit some documents.
“Whatever you want to submit, present it to the trial court,” replied Justice Ghaffar, saying that the SHC was moved for Dua’s recovery and she had been recovered.
The Sindh prosecutor general also requested the court to dispose of the plea and refer the case to a trial court for further proceedings.
Moreover, the Sindh advocate general told the court that Dua had to be presented before the Lahore High Court (LHC) on June 10.
He appealed to the court to place Dua in Punjab Police’s custody so that she could be presented before the LHC on the said date.
However, Dua’s father, Mehdi Kazmi, took exception to the advocate general’s request and contended that the case was being heard in the SHC.
Addressing him, Justice Ghaffar said, “The girl has recorded her statement. You are becoming emotional.”
When the judge asked Kazmi whether he wanted to say something, he raised objections to his daughter’s medical report. He pointed out that the report concluded that Dua’s age was 17. “It has been 17 years since I married. How can my daughter be 17 years of age?”
The judge, however, said that Dua had recorded her statement before the court. “We have to take into consideration the decisions of the Supreme Court and Federal Shariat Court,” he added.
Talking to the media outside the courtroom, Kazmi reiterated his objections to her medical report and said, “We have challenged this medical report.”
Alongside him, his counsel alleged that the medical report was “based on mala fide” and maintained that they had documents pertaining to Dua’s age.
He said no medical board was formed to determine the girl’s age and claimed that a “junior doctor prepared her medical report”.
Later, Dua’s father again spoke to the media after meeting her and claimed she wanted to return home.
“She wants to go home and record a statement before the judge as well,” he said, adding that “police have stopped us from meeting the girl any further”.
He said they had requested the court to record Dua’s statement again but even the judge said that the statement was recorded just once.
Kazmi said he had documents from the National Database and Registration Authority and other government departments. He appealed to the federal government, Rangers director general and other authorities for justice.