August 24, 2005

Pakistani police hunt for gang rape culprits

KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistani police are hunting a dozen
men in connection with the gang rape of a woman, including two
set free this week by a lower court in the southern city of
Karachi, police said on Wednesday.

The case has parallels with that of Mukhtaran Mai, a
village woman who became an international symbol for women's
rights after speaking out against her gang rape ordeal three
years ago.

Mariam Bano, 35, says she was raped by five men last month
near her house in a poor area of Karachi.

Coming from a traditional community originally from rural
Sindh province, Bano's family sought justice from the clan's
eight-member jirga (council), which pardoned the rapists after
money was paid to some of the victim's relatives.

Bano and her husband, however, refused to be bought off and
went to the mainstream judicial system seeking justice against
the rapists and the jirga members.

But on Monday a judicial magistrate set free two of the
jirga members, while remanding one of the accused rapists.

A distraught Bano had to be restrained from jumping from a
second-floor window in the court house, and in the ensuing
uproar the case was brought to the attention of a more senior
judge, who ordered a fresh inquiry.

"We want justice. No compensation is enough for us, and we
only want that the rapists and jirga members should be
punished," Bano's husband Abdul Rasheed Chandio said.

Shahid Qureshi, an investigating officer, said a hunt was
now on for 12 men, including the two freed earlier, and police
had to submit a report within three days.

Gang rapes and honor killings often occur in feudal, rural
Pakistan, but are less common in urban areas.

In Mai's case a village council ordered that she be
gang-raped as a punishment after her brother, who was just 12
at the time, was judged to have offended tribal honor by
befriending a 30-year-old woman from a more powerful clan.

In June, Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered the re-arrest of
13 men accused of involvement in the crime, pending the outcome
of Mai's appeal against a high court decision to overturn the
convictions and free the men.