KARACHI: The family of a young Pakistani girl, who had gone missing from outside her residence in Karachi in mid-April, will challenge a high court verdict that last week allowed her to decide if she wanted to go with her parents or husband, the family's lawyer said on Monday.
The parents of Syeda Dua Zehra Kazmi filed a first information report (FIR) on April 16 alleging that their daughter had been kidnapped after she went to throw trash outside their home in the provincial capital of Sindh.
Kazmi’s parents said she was underage and "kidnapped," but the girl told a Sindh High Court (SHC) judge she was not abducted and had married a man, Zaheer Ahmed, of her “free will.” The court last week ruled that Kazmi could decide her own fate, disposing of a case that divided public opinion on whether the girl was kidnapped or if she ran away of her own choice.
However, Kazmi's parents have now decided to challenge the high court's verdict in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“The father of Dua Zehra Kazmi has today engaged us as lawyers to represent him in the trial court and also file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court’s decision,” Jibran Nasir, who will be representing Kazmi's parents, told Arab News.
He said the high court’s verdict was in contrast with its own precedents in three cases in the last couple of years.
“Both the official NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) record, which existed long before this case, and the questionable medical report say that the girl is under 18, meaning a minor, and a minor girl's custody either lies with her natural guardians that is her parents or with the state, if it is assumed that the child isn't safe with parents,” Nasir said.
“At least in three cases, it decided within the last two years, the honorable high court has sent the girls aged under 18 to shelter home, and in two of these three cases the girls later decided to go with parents.”
In case of a girl from Sindh’s Kashmore district, whose age was 17-and-a-half year and who was married in Balochistan's capital Quetta, where the legal age for marriage is 16 years, the SHC had sent the girl to a shelter home until she turned 18.
Surprisingly, the lawyer said, a report prepared by a radiologist was not questioned by the court and taken on record. The report by chief radiologist at Karachi's Civil Hospital said Kazmi was aged between 16 and 17.
Nasir said the Supreme Court observed in a 2017 case that the bone ossification report, even if prepared by a medical board, was not precise and gave an estimation ranging from one to two years.
“What is also concerning is that the government-verified documents, such as those issued by NADRA several years before, should have had some credibility attached to them," he said, adding a high court could not conduct a “factual inquiry in its constitutional jurisdiction.”
“The question should be left to the competent court to resolve conclusively and in the interim, the child should be placed in the state's custody in a shelter home to ensure her welfare and that she doesn't inadvertently fall victim to any crime."
Nasir also disagreed with the Sindh advocate general's argument that it was not a case of abduction and that the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013 didn’t apply in this case, saying the official solely relied on the statement of the "minor" girl.
The Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013 prohibits the marriage of a child under the age of 18 and provides penalties for a male contracting party, the person who solemnizes the marriage as well as the parent or guardian concerned.
In Punjab, where Kazmi married Zaheer, the legal age of marriage is 16.
“If the girl is under 16 as claimed by NADRA documents, then the crime starts at the moment she was removed from custody of her parents even if the same was done through enticement and not through force and would fall under abduction," he said.
"Thus, her travel to Punjab, her confinement there and her marriage would be considered a continuing offence(s) carried out on one voyage."
In an interview with YouTuber Zunaira Mahum, Kazmi said she was neither drugged nor pressured into giving any statement. “Firstly, I am well and whatever I said, would say it with my consent,” the girl said during the interview shared online on Monday.
She requested her parents to accept her and her husband: "I know they have gone through grief and even I have but I ask them to accept us."
After a hearing of the case at the SHC last week, the girl's father, Syed Mehdi Kazmi, said Kazmi had changed her mind after meeting them in the judge’s chamber, but the judge didn’t accept his plea to record a fresh statement.
Kazmi said she did not say any such thing and that her father had lied to the judge.
“I didn’t say any such thing. He told me to 'go and tell the judge that you have to go with us' but I refused and said I don’t want to go [with you],” Kazmi said.
"[He] forcibly said 'go and tell the judge that you want to go with us.' I refused and went out from there. He went to the judge and told a lie."
Kazmi said her father wanted to marry her off to his nephew, Zainul Abideen, to get a plot that he had a dispute over with his brother.