After Months Of Court Battles, Parents Get Temporary Custody Of Dua Zahra

After Months Of Court Battles, Parents Get Temporary Custody Of Dua Zahra
The Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered on Friday that custody of Dua Zahra be temporarily granted to her parents, Mehdi and Saima Kazmi. Dua is 14 years old according to government records, and told the judge that she wanted to go with her parents of her own free will.

Dua Zahra went missing from Karachi on 16 April last year, but in a twist that has since captivated the public imagination, she was later discovered in Punjab.

In video messages, she declared that she had not been abducted, but had escaped her home to marry 21-year-old Zaheer Ahmad. In July 2022, a medical board informed the court that Dua Zahra's age could not be more than 15 years, rendering her ineligible by law to choose her own partner. Dua's father Mehdi Kazmi had challenged the marriage between Dua and Zaheer under Sindh's Child Marriage Act.

The teenager was present in the courtroom today when the SHC’s Justice Iqbal Kalhoro ruled on the matter. During the proceedings, Justice Kalhoro asked Dua Zahra if she preferred living at the shelter home, or with her parents. At this, Dua responded that she wants to go with her parents.

Justice Kalhoro gave Dua the rostrum and asked her name, to which she replied, "my name is Dua Zahra. I was studying in seventh grade. My parents and sister are present in court and I want to go with my family.”

The court then ordered the parents, Mehdi and Saima Kazmi, to submit a surety bond worth Rs. 1 million. The trial court will give a verdict on the permanent custody of the teenage girl later, the SHC judge ordered.

The court also ordered a child protection officer accompanied by female police officers to meet the girl every week. The child protection officer was further instructed to submit a report to the court on each meeting with the teenage girl while she resides with her parents.

Meanwhile, Zaheer’s lawyer argued that Dua's parents' petition was invalid. “On court orders, the girl was placed in a shelter home. It is not a habeas corpus case”, he said.

Zaheer’s lawyer appealed that the girl should be stopped from leaving the country, to which the judge replied that everyone wished to go to their parents’ house. “No one wants to leave their parents’ house and our court is open to all. The girl is young and she does not want to go to a shelter home,” the judge ruled.

However, Justice Kalhoro barred Dua from leaving the country till the cases relating to her are still pending before the courts.