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Revenge rape in Pakistan leads to council of elders' arrest

A council of elders in rural Pakistan ordered a man to rape his teenage cousin to avenge the rape of his sister. Police stepped in after the man actually did it.

Pakistan police arrested 20 members of a village council for ordering a man to rape a teenage girl to avenge the rape of his sister, they announced on Wednesday.

A villager had sought their advice earlier this month after his 12- or 13-year-old sister was raped by his cousin. They allegedly instructed the man to even the score by raping the 16- or 17-year-old sister of the alleged offender.

Police said the man did as instructed.

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"Both the parties had filed cases of rape against each other at the local police station after the incident that happened last week," Rashid Taheem, the police officer heading the investigation, told news agency AFP.

"We have arrested 14 people of the village council so far," he said, adding that the "main accused" - the man who raped the 12-year-old - was still at large.

Village councils, known as jirgas, are made up of local elders and are illegal in Pakistan. They are a traditional means of settling disputes in Pakistan's rural areas, where courts and lawyers are not always accessible or trusted.

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Police chief Ahsan Younus told The Associated Press that they were searching for both alleged rapists, and that the case was first reported to a women's rights center in Multan.

The Province of Punjab's Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered police to arrest the council members and charge them under anti-terror laws, his office said in a statement.

The incident attracted an outcry from rights activists in Pakistan, with prominent lawyer Asma Jahangir calling for a revamp of the criminal justice system to eliminate the role of private councils.

aw/bk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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