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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Police attacked in Pakistan rape case
Rape protest demo
The case has led to an outcry from rights activists
The Pakistan Supreme Court has strongly criticised the local police in the case of the gang rape of a woman on the orders of a tribal gathering.


It is not possible to believe that it [the crime] was not known to the police

Chief Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmed
The court asked the provincial police chief and other officers to appear before them to explain what action they had taken.

The incident has also been condemned in strong terms by the Pakistani Government.

Human rights groups have expressed outrage at the rape of the woman, which took place in the remote village of Mirwali, near the city of Muzaffargarh in Punjab province.

Tribal assembly

The woman herself, Mukhtar Bibi, told Reuters that hundreds of people had gathered round as four men dragged her off to a room to rape her, but no-one dared to intervene.

Victim of gang rape
Mukhtar Bibi: Ordered to be raped as a punishment
"They raped me for one hour and afterwards I was unable to move," she said.

The court heard that the tribal assembly made the ruling to rape her in order punish the victim's family, after allegations that her brother had been involved with a woman from a higher-status tribe.

The police only registered the rape case a week later.

The chief justice presiding over the court strongly criticised the police.

"It is not possible to believe that it [the crime] was not known to the police," Chief Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmed commented.

Law Minister Khalid Ranjha told the BBC that the crime was being considered "an act of terrorism" and those responsible would be tried before an anti-terrorist court.

One of the four men accused has now been arrested, but the other three are still at large.

Eight others have already been detained for backing the tribal assembly's decision.

Earlier reports that the woman was a teenager have now been contradicted by the police, who say that after a medical examination, it was revealed the woman was 30 years old.

Rights concerns

The human rights group Amnesty International has asked the Pakistani authorities to ensure that justice is done in the case.

It also says the authorities should take action to stop tribal councils assuming unlawful powers.

Human rights groups say the informal system of justice in Pakistan, based on illegal tribal assemblies, tends to be biased against women and poor people, and thrives on the collusion of local police forces.

Activists say that while rape is all too common in Pakistan, this is the first known instance when it has been used as a punishment by a tribal council.

Government officials have promised a full investigation into the case.

Attiya Inayatullah, Pakistan's Women's Affairs Minister, visited the family of the girl on Thursday and handed over a cheque for $8,000.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price
"This case has shocked the nation"
See also:

03 Jul 02 | South Asia
02 Jul 02 | South Asia
27 Apr 01 | South Asia
14 Jun 00 | South Asia
02 May 02 | Country profiles
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