Police in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) have arrested two cousins who allegedly raped separately a 10-year-old orphan girl from their kin, officials said on Tuesday.
The incident occurred in Kaneri Langla village of Jhelum Valley district, some 55 kilometres south of the AJK capital, reportedly more than two weeks ago but was “settled” by a local jirga which imposed punishment on the suspects, primarily in cash and banishment from the village in default of the payment, according to Raja Ansar Sajjad, Station House Officer (SHO) of Hattian Bala police station.
“When we came to know about the offence from some local sources, we sent a police team to Kaneri village to ascertain the facts,” he said, adding that the team returned with the victim and her elder sister to record their formal statements at the police station.
According to their statements, the two suspects, who were sons of their stepbrothers, had separately raped the 10-year-old girl at least four times more than two weeks ago.
According to SHO Sajjad, one of the suspects was married and in his mid-twenties while the other, his cousin, was around 18 years old.
He said the medical examination of the victim conducted by a doctor in a Hattian Bala hospital the same evening confirmed the commission of rape with her, following which a First Information Report was registered under Section 10 of Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Act, 1985 (ZHA).
In the meanwhile, those who were part of the jirga were also summoned to the police station and asked to produce the suspects or risk being jailed.
The jirga members, the SHO said, had imposed a fine of Rs200,000 each on the suspects, failing which they would have to leave the village.
SHO Sajjad assumed that since both the men were unable to pay the penalty and also feared a strong reaction from the public and police, they fled to the cities of Mirpur and Rawalakot where they had been doing some odd jobs.
Separately, Riyaz Mughal, Superintendent of Police (SP) in Jhelum Valley, told reporters that police had avoided publicising the result of the medical report and subsequent registration of FIR as part of its "strategy to net the suspects".
“We wanted to ensure that they do not disappear from their current location after coming to know about the registration of the FIR,” he said, adding that police eventually succeeded in apprehending both within 24 hours.
SHO Sajjad told Dawn that one of the suspects was arrested in Rawalakot while the other was arrested in Mirpur late on Monday.
One of them was shifted to Hattian Bala and produced before a magistrate for physical remand on Tuesday while the other will be produced before the magistrate on Wednesday, he said.
“Further details about the incident will be obtained during their interrogations,” the SHO said.