ISLAMABAD / MULTAN: Chief Jus­tice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday took suo motu notice of the rape of a girl allegedly ordered by a panchayat in the Muzaffarabad area of Multan district, while Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took punitive action against the police.

The Multan city police officer was made an OSD (officer on special duty) and the entire staff of the Muzaffarabad police station was suspended.

The CJ has sought a report from the Punjab inspector general of police (IGP) on the incident in which the 16-year-old was raped as ‘punishment’ for a rape her brother had committed. According to the police, four more people were arrested in connection with the case on Thursday, bringing the total number of the suspects arrested to 24.

The CM ordered action against the police officials after visiting the victims and the families in Multan. Accusing them of gross negligence, he demanded to know why the main suspects had not been arrested on July 20, the day the first FIR was registered.

“Why were the accused not arrested on the same day? The police acted irresponsibly and the second incident is a result of police negligence. The area police remained ignorant while the victims had to approach the Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) for legal action,” he said, adding that the state would become the plaintiff in the case.

The chief minister assured the victim families that the suspects would be given exemplary punishment. He constituted a three-member committee, headed by Chief Minister Inspection Team chairman Irfan Ali, to probe the matter and submit a report within 72 hours.

Sources in the police said that after learning about the incident in which the girl was raped on the panchayat’s orders, the police offered both sides a ‘chance’ to reconcile with Makhdoom Abbas Akbar Moni Shah, a relative of MNA Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as the mediator. He had urged the two families to settle the matter by marrying the victims to their alleged rapists.

The mother of one of the victims told police that they had visited Makhdoom Moni Shah several times after the first FIR was registered. Mr Shah had called on both sides to reconcile but the other family had refused to visit him despite repeated summons.

Mr Shah told journalists that he had suggested an ‘exchange marriage’ as a way to reconcile.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2017