KARACHI: A court in Lahore on Tuesday ruled that Dua Zehra, a teenaged girl who was found in Punjab nine days after her disappearance from her home in Karachi, was “free to go anywhere she wants” after she told the judge she was an adult and had married a boy of her own free will.
Zehra had gone missing from Karachi’s Al-Falah area on April 16, after she went out of her house to throw thrash. Her father said they live on the first floor of the building and his daughter had gone down to the ground floor to dump trash, but didn’t return.
A video of the girl surfaced online on Tuesday in which she claimed she had tied the knot with a boy, Zaheer Ahmed, of her own free will and she should be allowed to live freely.
The Lahore police confirmed her recovery in a Twitter post, saying the teenager and her husband were currently at the District Police Office (DPO) in Okara. She was then taken to Lahore and presented before a judicial magistrate, who turned down the police request to shift Zehra to Darul Aman (shelter home).
Before the judgment, the judge sent the husband of the girl outside the courtroom to record her statement.
Zehra told the judge that she was 18 years of age, came from Karachi to Lahore willingly, and she did not want to go to Darul Aman. “I am safe, my life is not in danger,” she added.
After listening to the girl, the judge ruled that she is “free to go anywhere she wants.”
The teenager said her father, Mehdi Kazmi, wanted her to marry her cousin and would beat her to force her for the marriage. She said she was living happily with her husband, Ahmed.
Zehra recorded the statement under duress, Kazmi said at a press conference in Karachi on Tuesday.
“She said I would torture her which is totally wrong. My daughter was first kidnapped and now being forced to give a statement in their favour,” the father told reporters, appealing to Sindh chief minister to help bring his daughter back.
“My daughter is underage and not an adult. She should be brought back and kept with the child protection department,” he said, adding he wanted fair trial in the case.
Zehra’s mother said Ahmed befriended her daughter while gaming online and misguided the girl to “kidnap” her.
Last week, an official overseeing the technical side of the case told Arab News Karachi police investigators believed the girl had not been kidnapped, but instead someone “trapped” her through an online gaming platform that served as the source of contact with her.
Zehra is not the only teenager who went missing in Karachi, but two more teenaged girls disappeared from the port city in recent days. All three have now appeared in different cities of Punjab.
Nikahnamas (marriage certificates) of two of the girls, Zehra and Nimra Kazmi, have surfaced as well, while the family of the third girl has not yet formally lodged a complaint with the police.
Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Ghulam Nabi Memon, the additional inspector-general of police in Karachi, said the law enforcers were in touch with their counterparts in Lahore regarding the recovery of the girls.
“It appears that these girls had left their homes of their own will,” Memon said.
Nuzhat Shirin, chairperson of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, on Monday said provincial authorities had received nikahnamas of both Zehra and Nimra.
“The family of Dua has shown us her Form-B, according to which she is 14, whereas the nikahnama shows her 18-year-old,” Shirin told Arab News.
She said once the girl returned to Karachi, she would be kept with the child protection department, and that her marriage doesn’t stand as the law in Sindh requires a girl to be 18 to be married. In Punjab, the law allows a 16-year-old to legally tie the knot.
According to sources, police say Dua Zehra, the14-year-old girl, has married a man named Zaheer Ahmed and has been living with him in Punjab’s capital, adding that Dua Zehra is now in police custody and further investigation is underway.
Dua Zehra’s family had approached police, hours after she went missing from near her house in Alfalah Town on April 16, and had appealed through a number of channels including a welfare organization for help in finding their daughter.
Her father and mother even said that they will not take any legal action against the abductor or whoever is keeping her if Dua Zehra is returned safely.
The police had earlier carried out a raid in Sanghar on a tip off but only found another girl who was forcefully kept there.
‘No movement on camera’
Since Dua Zehra went missing, her father and mother had talked to a number of media channels and have revealed details about the mysterious disappearance which kept the whole nation on edge.
Her parents say she went out to throw away some trash bags at about 12:30 PM from her first floor residence to a place in her alley but never returned.
“The place (where Dua Zehra went to place trash bags) is seconds away from my house and even some labourers were working there but they say they never saw her, a boy in neighbourhood claims he saw her returning towards her house but she never did,” her father Mehdi Ali told a web channel.
The alley, where the family lives, is too narrow for anyone to even come up with a four-wheeler and Mehdi Ali said he lives here for 16 years.“I just want her alive,” Dua Zehra’s mother had said.