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Last Updated: Monday, 29 August 2005, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Tribal council rape ruling probed
Mariam Bano and her daughter
Ms Bano says she was warned not to talk of the incident
Police in the Pakistani city of Karachi are looking for five members of a tribal council who allegedly prevented a rape case being reported to police.

The council, or jirga, instead allegedly imposed a fine on the accused which did not reach the woman.

Tribal councils (jirgas) are banned by law from involvement in criminal cases.

The law came into the spotlight in 2003 after a jirga allegedly ordered the rape of a woman, Mukhtar Mai, to punish a crime attributed to her brother.

Not informed

In the latest case, 35-year-old Mariam Bano was allegedly abducted and raped in July this year.

Ms Bano said: "I had gone looking for my daughter who was late in returning home from the corner shop where I had sent her to get groceries.

Mukhtar Mai after her Supreme Court ruling
Mukhtar Mai fought a high-profile case to bring her attackers to justice

"I was stopped by a man, thrown into a waiting cab at gunpoint and driven to a nearby house," she said.

Ms Bano said there were four men in the cab and another at the place where she was taken.

"They beat me up, often with electric cables and raped me for nearly two hours," she said.

Ms Bano said she was then put in a taxi and sent home after being warned not to talk of the incident.

She said her family told her to stay quiet and let elders handle the situation.

Her husband's uncles were allegedly entrusted with the case but instead of informing police or getting her medically examined, they called a jirga.

The police investigating officer, Shahid Qureshi, said the jirga, which included the uncles, "imposed a penalty on two of the principal accused of 150,000 rupees ($2,500)".

Ms Bano's brother, Mohammed Hussain, said her family was not informed of the incident and he only learned of it one month later.

Mr Qureshi said police found the fine imposed by the jirga had been paid but had not reached Ms Bano or her husband.

He said police were investigating whether the two uncles had invested the money.

The uncles have been arrested and released on bail, while police are searching for the other five jirga members.

Conflicting rulings

The role of jirgas in rape cases was thrown into the spotlight by the Mukhtar Mai case.

Ms Mai, 33, shot to world attention after her highly publicised rape in Punjab province in 2002, allegedly on a village council's order.

Since then she has become an icon in the campaign for women's justice in conservative Pakistan.

The Supreme Court is currently reassessing the guilt of her alleged attackers after a number of conflicting legal rulings.

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