New twist: police confirm Dua’s abduction, underage marriage

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KARACHI
Contrary to their previous claim that the case pertaining to kidnapping of teenage Dua Zehra and her marriage was false, police on Saturday informed a sessions court that 24 persons, including her purported husband Zaheer Ahmed, had been found involved in abducting her from Karachi and shifting her to Punjab, where they solemnised the illegal child marriage.
The investigating officer of the case, DSP Shaukat Ali Shahani, stated this in a progress report filed before Additional District and Sessions Judge (East) Muhammad Mehboob Awan.
The same court has already been seized with the hearing of an application of Dua’s father seeking removal of the IO from the case for allegedly being ‘biased and partial’. On Saturday, when the judge took up the matter, no comments/reply was filed on behalf of the additional inspector general (investigation) and SSP-East (investigation) as ordered by the court on the last date.
However, the IO Shahani, who had previously recommended to the trial court to dispose of the abduction case in “C” class for being false as nominated suspects were found innocent, changed his earlier stance after ‘fresh’ investigation into the matter.
He stated in the progress report that in the light of the directives issued by the Supreme Court and the trial court a medical board had conducted ‘age estimation test’, which found Dua to be between 15 and 16 years, closer to 15.
He said the statements of witnesses were recorded and the call data record (CDR) of the cell phone of suspect Zaheer was analysed, which showed his presence in Karachi on the day when Dua Zehra went missing.
He further stated that in the light of statements, circumstantial, medical and forensic evidence, held suspects cleric Hafiz Ghulam Mustafa and Asghar Ali and Zaheer Ahmed and his 21 absconding relatives had been found involved in committing the offence of kidnapping punishable under Section 363 of the Pakistan Penal Code and offence of solemnising child marriage punishable under Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013.
The IO said that Dua was still not recovered and he had approached the Sindh home department for permission to travel to Lahore to obtain custody of the girl and suspect Zaheer.
He stated that the previous IO, Inspector Saeed Ahmed Thaheem, had visited Lahore and requested the relevant judicial magistrate to hand custody of the recovered girl and main suspect Zaheer to him, but the court not only declined, but also allowed her to go along and reside with her alleged husband.
Subsequently, the IO Thaeem filed an incomplete charge sheet with the court and requested the judicial magistrate for granting more time to complete the investigation.
IO Shahani claimed that after the investigation of the case was entrusted to him on May 30, the Punjab police informed him that they had recovered Dua and Zaheer from Chishtian and subsequently the couple was produced before the Sindh High Court on June 8, where the girl testified that she was an adult of 18 years and left her parents’ home out of her own choice and solemnised free-will marriage with Zaheer.
Without passing any order, the ADJ Awan fixed the matter on July 19 for comments by the police high-ups on the plea seeking change of the IO.
The kidnapping and child marriage case is fixed before a judicial magistrate on July 20.