Pakistan police arrest 26 for allegedly ordering rape of girl 

A villager points to a house where a teenage girl was raped in Muzaffarabad, a suburb of the central city of Multan.

Photograph: Ss Mirza/AFP/Getty Images  The Guardian - Haroon Janjua in Islamabad and Michael Safi in Delhi

Police in Pakistan have arrested 26 members of a village council for allegedly ordering the rape of a teenager as punishment for a sexual assault committed by her brother. 

The girl, 17, was raped last week at the direction of the council as revenge for a sexual assault allegedly committed two days earlier against a child in the same village by the teenage girl’s brother.  The man who was ordered to rape the teenager was the brother of the initial victim, local police official Malik Rashid said.
He said the state would act as plaintiff in the case and refuse to free those convicted in exchange for compensation, an option available under the country’s Islamic legal system. “The state will not give up any sort of agreement,” Rashid said

The incident, which occurred in Muzaffarabad, a village near Multan in the southern province of Punjab, came to light after the teenage girl’s mother complained to police.

The mother alleged in the complaint that members of the council were present at the time of the punitive rape. Medical examinations have reportedly confirmed sexual assaults in both cases.  On Thursday the chief justice of Pakistan’s supreme court, Saqib Nisar, ordered a police inquiry on Thursday into the incident, which has sparked uproar in the country and abroad.

“Pakistan’s judiciary has time and again declared these local councils to be unconstitutional and [have] no legal standing,” said lawyer and activist Asma Jahangir. “Such decisions and parallel justice should end now.”

The village councils, or jirgas, are a traditional means of settling disputes in Pakistan’s rural areas, where the legal system can be mistrusted or out of reach.

The councils are illegal but such “honour” punishments are still common, especially in rural areas. In another case that gained international prominence, a village council in 2002 ordered the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai as revenge for taking her rapists to court.

Mai was offered refuge in other countries but chose to stay and open a school for rural girls. She tweeted on Thursday that the case showed “we are still in 2002”.

Haroon Janjua in Islamabad and Michael Safi in Del, 27/07/2017

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