close
Sunday May 26, 2024

Alleged abduction, underage marriage: Karachi Police claim finding evidence against Dua Zehra’s husband, other suspects

The Karachi Police claimed on Saturday to have found sufficient evidence against Dua Zehra’s purported husband and other suspects in a case pertaining to her alleged abduction from Karachi and subsequent underage marriage in Lahore

By Yousuf Katpar
July 17, 2022
Alleged abduction, underage marriage: Karachi Police claim finding evidence against Dua Zehra’s husband, other suspects

KARACHI: In what appeared to be a U-turn, the Karachi Police claimed on Saturday to have found sufficient evidence against Dua Zehra’s purported husband and other suspects in a case pertaining to her alleged abduction from Karachi and subsequent underage marriage in Lahore.

The investigating officer of the case, DSP Shaukat Shahani, had on June 16 submitted the final investigation report under Section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to a judicial magistrate, requesting cancellation of the case lodged on the complaint of Zehra’s parents as the kidnapping and underage marriage charges were not proven.

However, on Saturday, the IO submitted a progress report to Additional District and Sessions Judge-IV (East) Muhammad Mehboob Awan, who was hearing an application filed by Syed Mehdi Ali Kazmi, the girl’s father, seeking replacement of the investigating officer.

He informed that the girl, in a statement recorded before a judicial magistrate, Lahore, under Section 164 of the CrPC, had said she went to Lahore and married Ahmed of her own free will.Inspector Saeed Ahmed Thaheem, the first IO of the case, reached Lahore on April 23 and approached the relevant court, seeking custody of the girl, but his plea was denied and she was declared free to go wherever she wanted.

IO Shahani said he was assigned the investigation of the case on May 30 and on June 5, the girl and her purported husband were recovered from Bahawalnagar’s Chishtian tehsil and produced before the Sindh High Court (SHC) in pursuance of its orders the next day.

When an SHC judge asked Zehra if she was kidnapped by anybody, she replied in the negative and informed that she, being a sui juris (an independent girl), travelled to Lahore from Karachi and contracted a freewill marriage with Ahmed, the officer said, adding that an ossification test carried out to determine the girl’s age declared her to be between 16 and 17 years of age, after which the high court had allowed her to decide whom she wanted to live with.

He pointed out that since she had already recorded her statement before the Lahore magistrate, she was handed over to her husband and all the detained relatives of the groom, who were arrested for allegedly facilitating Zaheer, were discharged from the case under the Section 63 of the CrPC against personal bonds except two suspects — Ghulam Mustafa, a local cleric who allegedly solemnised the marriage, and Asghar Ali, one of the two eyewitnesses of the marriage.

Meanwhile, Kazmi approached the Supreme Court against the SHC’s order but the top court directed him to approach the trial court instead to have his grievance redressed. Subsequently, the complainant filed an application before a District East judicial magistrate, seeking assessment of his daughter’s age through a medical board, which was allowed.

The medical board formed to check the age of the girl declared her to be between 15 and 16 years old, the IO maintained and added he obtained call data record (CDR) of Ahmed’s phone number on the magistrate’s directives. The CDR analysis showed that the suspect was in Karachi on April 16, when she went missing from her residence.

He said the investigation so far carried out into the case, statements of the witnesses, and the assessment of girl’s age, as well as the CDR analysis, provide sufficient evidence against Zaheer and 32 other suspects.

Therefore, IO Shahani said he had sought an approval from his high-ups for the submission of a charge sheet against the suspects under Section 363 (Punishment for kidnapping) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read with Sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013. He said he had also requested permission to travel to Punjab to arrest Zaheer Ahmed and recover Dua Zehra from his custody. The judge adjourned the case until July 19 when he would hear arguments on the application.

Kazmi, through his lawyer and social activist Jibran Nasir, had moved a fresh application, seeking removal of the IO, DSP Shaukat Shahani, and the appointment of a new one.

Nasir tweeted that the police’s progress report confirmed Zaheer’s involvement in the crime of kidnapping, adding that the IO was still trying to provide benefit to accused Zaheer by removing Section 364-A (kidnapping with intent to force sexual relations) of PPC and replacing it with Section 363 (simple kidnapping) and omitting Section 365-B (kidnapping for forced marriage).