A search operation is underway to arrest the members of a panchayat (village council) who fled after ordering a man to rape a 16-year-old girl, police said on Wednesday.

According to SHO Malik Rashid, the search operation began after two cases were registered against the members of the council at a police station inside the Violence Against Women centre in Multan.

The council, comprising at least 40 men, was convened in Muzaffarabad's Rajpur area after a 12-year-old girl, F*, was raped by a man while cutting grass in a field on July 16, reads the First Information Report (FIR) filed at the police station.

On July 18, the panchayat ordered F's brother to rape 17-year-old N*, the sister of the accused. According to the police, N was dragged to the area where the panchayat was convened and was raped before the men and her parents.

After the incident, the parents of N filed an FIR on July 20, while a second FIR was filed on July 24 by F's family, who had initially wished to keep the matter quiet.

After the cases were registered, the police started investigations and arrested 20 of the council's members, including the head of the panchayat who gave the order. Search operations for the remaining men are underway.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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