ISLAMABAD: Police have announced a Rs10 million reward for anyone who can help them trace two teenaged girls who went missing from the capital around 16 months ago.
The girls*, who were both around 15-years-of-age at the time, had gone missing on the evening of October 16, 2016, from their homes near Zia Mosque in Khanna.
Police had initially registered a case of kidnapping and had arrested four suspects, including two women, during the course of the investigation. However, the suspects were eventually cleared after questioning.
The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the capital police took over the case and thoroughly investigated the matter, but they too could find no trace of the missing teens.
Last year, the police announced a Rs100,000 reward for anyone who could lead them to the girls. Despite that announcement, no progress was made.
Now the police have increased the reward to Rs10 million, hoping that it would yield substantial clues about the whereabouts of the two girls. Curiously, in the poster seeking information, the police published the incorrect phone number of the investigation officer in the case.
Talking to The Express Tribune, investigation officer Inspector Haider Ali said that investigations into the case had been closed since no clue had been found about the girls’ location.
The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) had also taken notice of the issue after a story about them appeared in this newspaper on August 15, 2017.
The police, in their reply to NCHR, had disclosed that they interviewed a total of 123 people, including several relatives and neighbours of the two girls, their schoolfellows and teachers. Moreover, regular suspects were also questioned.
The police had also dispatched teams to various suspected locations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab but could not find the girls.
The police also analysed 7,000 mobile phone records of various suspects, including relatives of the girls, in a bid to trace their location or gather any information about what may have happened the day the girls went missing. But the efforts got the investigators no closer to the girls.
Investigators said that they had also written to government-run women and juvenile shelters in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. They received replies from 43 shelters, but all were in the negative.
Photographs and information about the girls were sent to various hospitals, jails and marriage registration authorities, as well as to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and even the State Bank.
Officials said that they had used DNA samples from the girls’ families to match them against some unclaimed bodies but to no avail.
Records of unclaimed bodies in Punjab and K-P were also checked with reports from Punjab with no result.
Based on the investigation thus far, the police believe that the girls were not kidnapped. Rather, they went somewhere, on their own, as there no evidence could be found indicating that they were taken against their will.
It added that the sole eyewitness had seen the girls leave their homes and walk down the street on their own with a school bag carrying clothes.
*NAMES WITHHELD TO PROTECT IDENTITY
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2018.