- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

MULTAN, Pakistan A Pakistani tribal council ordered an 18-year-old girl to be gang-raped in order to punish her family after her brother was seen walking with a girl from a higher-class tribe, police said yesterday.
The private Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded that all those involved in the rape, which reportedly took place June 22 in the village of Meerwala in southern Punjab province, be punished.
Punjab, located to the southwest of Northwest Frontier Province where remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban are believed to be hiding, shares many of the same harsh tribal customs as its neighboring province.
Police said the victim's father had filed criminal charges against the four men involved in the case. Police said they picked up eight relatives of the suspects to pressure the perpetrators into surrendering.
"We will spare no efforts to do justice" for the victim, police official Malik Saeed said.
According to the victim, the Mastoi tribe demanded punishment after her 11-year-old brother was seen walking unchaperoned with a Mastoi girl in a deserted part of the village. The boy and his sister are from the lower-class Gujar tribe.
The Mastoi tribe called a meeting of the tribal council, which ordered the girl to be raped to avenge their tribal honor. The teenager said she was taken to a hut and assaulted as hundreds of Mastois stood outside laughing and cheering.
Pakistan has a tradition of tribal justice in which crimes or affronts to dignity are punished outside the framework of Pakistani law. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has demanded an end to punishments by tribal councils.
Kamla Hayyat, of the commission, said the group will send a fact-finding mission to the victim's village to determine what happened and provide help to her.
"The increasing incidents of terrible atrocities against women are a terrible reflection on the state of society and the status of women within it," commission Chairman Afrasiab Khattak said in a statement.
Last month, an Islamic court overturned the conviction of a woman who was to be stoned to death for adultery. Zufran Bibi, 28, said she was raped and appealed her early May conviction in the conservative Northwest Frontier Province.
Her case prompted demonstrations and protests by hundreds of civil and women's rights groups nationwide.
Tribal law prevails through much of the mountainous area along the Afghanistan border, both in Punjab and Northwest Frontier provinces, with the central Pakistani government exercising virtually no control.
Pakistani troops have begun an extensive hunt in recent weeks for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in the region, but only after making extraordinary arrangements with local tribal leaders, in some cases involving large cash payments.
Ten Pakistani troops were killed during a raid in the region last month and more than a dozen suspected al Qaeda fighters have been arrested.


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