MUZAFFARGARH, July 5: A woman, gang-raped on the orders of a village jury in a Punjab village, said on Friday she kept begging for mercy, but none from hundreds of people around helped her as four men dragged her to a room and gang-raped her.

Mukhtaran Mai and her father said no one from the crowd dared to object to the verdict of the traditional jury, or Panchayat, of village elders for fear of their lives.

“They kept dragging me towards the room,” Mai told Reuters Television about the incident that has sparked a national outcry.

“My father, uncle and myself begged for mercy from them (jury) and the people sitting there but no one came to our help,” she said at Muzaffargarh town near her Meerwala Jatoi village.

“They raped me for one hour and afterwards I was unable to move,” Mai said. “After one hour, I called my father and uncle to take me home.”

A close relative of Mai fainted as she spoke about the ordeal she suffered as a punishment for an alleged love affair her brother had with a girl of a “high-class” tribe.

“We begged for mercy in the name of God, but they held guns on us and thus we were helpless,” Mai’s father Ghulam Farid Gujjar said about the incident that happened on June 22, but was registered as a complaint by police only about a week later.

Police said on Friday they had arrested one of the four alleged rapists and were hunting for three others as the Supreme Court heard the provincial police chief saying he was unaware of the incident even a week after it had happened.

“It is unbelievable that the IG (Inspector-General of Police), being the head of the police, came to know about the facts of case so late,” Chief Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmad remarked during a brief hearing in Lahore.

The country’s top court had summoned the provincial police chief and local police officials to explain the incident after newspaper reports that a crowd of villagers, too frightened to protest against the jury’s ruling, watched four men take turns to rape Mai inside a farmhouse and force her to walk home naked.

The government, which has vowed to pursue the case, on Thursday handed a cheque for 500,000 rupees ($8,200) to Mai.

Local newspaper reports had said Mai was an 18-year-old, but Punjab police chief Malik Asif Hayat told the Supreme Court she was actually a 30-year-old divorcee.

“I would have committed suicide if the government had not come to my help,” Mai told Women’s Development Minister Attiya Inayatullah who gave her the cheque.

Inayatullah said the government was considering setting up a summary court to deliver quick punishment to those responsible for the gang-rape.

Newspaper reports said on Friday another young girl of the same area committed suicide a few days ago after being raped. The authorities have confirmed the report.—Reuters

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