Pakistani police say they have arrested the head of a village council and 23 other councilmen in central Pakistan on suspicion of ordering the rape of a 16-year-old girl as punishment for a rape committed by her brother.
Police spokeswoman Shabina Kareem said on July 27 that the arrest of council chief Saeed Patwari and the councilmen from the village of Raja Pur, near the city of Multan, came in a series of raids in recent days.
Kareem said the suspects all attended a July meeting in which Patwari allegedly ordered Mohammad Ashfaq to rape the 16-year-old girl to avenge the rape of his 12-year-old sister by another man, Omar Wadda.
Police official Allah Baksh said the families of the two girls are related.
Authorities said both Ashfaq and Wadda were still at large.
A regional police chief and some other officers were fired for their belated response in the case after the first rape took place in Raja Pur on July 16.
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported that the 16-year-old girl was forced to appear before the group of councilmen and was raped by Ashfaq in front of them and her parents.
Police said medical examinations have confirmed rape in both cases.
Mohammad Bilal, a cousin of the 16-year-old rape victim, described how the council refused the family's request to go to police over the initial rape case and, instead, sought to carry out “honor crime” justice in line with traditions of the village by ordering the second rape.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab Province, said during a visit to Multan on July 27 that authorities “will do justice with both of the victims.”
Tahira Abdullah, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, condemned the rapes and said that what the council did was illegal.
Abdullah demanded strong action against all who sanction such crimes.
So-called "honor" crime revenge rulings are common in some rural areas of Pakistan.
In June 2002, a tribal council in the Muzaffargarh District of Punjab Province ordered the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, a young woman who took the 13 rapists to court.
That case gathered international prominence and Mai later opened a school for rural girls and founded the Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization (MMWWO).
The MMWWO provides legal help for victims of violence or injustice, many of them women.