Girl gang-raped as local punishment

Pakistan's rights groups and even police expressed shock on Tuesday over the gang-rape of a girl one week ago under a ruling by a tribal jirga, or village council, in Punjab Province, as a means of punishing her brother.

"The gang-rape of a young woman near Muzaffargarh, as a form of punishment, apparently ordered by a tribal jirga, is particularly shocking and presents an alarming picture of the conditions in which so many women live and the atrocities they face," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said in a statement on Tuesday.

It said the HRCP was especially shocked by the fact that the tribal jirga could have been allowed to meet, order the gang-rape of a teenaged woman apparently as a "punishment" for the actions of her brother, and then have this terrible sentence inflicted in the presence of at least 1,000 people.

Police authorities told IRIN from the remote region of Jatoi in the Punjab Province near Muzaffargarh that they had lodged a complaint against the alleged perpetrators of the crime. "This is the first time we have come across such a shameful and shocking act," the police official, who did not wish to be named, said. "The accused have fled, and we are trying to arrest them," he added.

All the residents of the village, about 90 km from the historic city of Multan, were extremely dismayed by the incident, a local resident, Malik Mushtaq, told IRIN from Jatoi. He said the family of the girl was so afraid of the perpetrators that they would not approach the police.

"We had to bring the police to their doorstep and convince them that they should lodge a complaint for legal action," Mushtaq added.

In order to put pressure on the accused to surrender, police said they had detained some of the relatives of the jirga members who had issued the sentence and those who had raped the girl . However, according to local residents, several hundred people were present during the jirga meeting in which the sentence was announced, and then implemented in an adjacent room.

The French news agency, AFP, reported that after enduring her ordeal, the girl had been forced to run home naked.

There has been no immediate comment from the families of the accused, nor is it clear what crime the victim's brother was accused of.

An HRCP official, Tariq Khan, told IRIN that the group was trying to obtain further details about the incident through its local representatives in the area.

"HRCP demands punishment under the law for all those involved in the crime, as well as the onlookers and members of the administration who permitted it to take place," the HRCP statement said.