Those arrested on Thursday included 24 of the village council’s 27 members, and the 15-year-old boy accused of setting off the chain of events after being accused of raping the younger girl, the police said.
Mr. Ashfaq on Thursday remained at large.
Vendetta rapes to settle issues of family honor remain common in the southern part of Punjab Province despite efforts by the government and rights groups to end the practice.
Such village councils are considered illegal, but in many poor and far-flung regions residents are reluctant to go to the police.
This recent case is reminiscent of the 2002 gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, who became an international cause célèbre. Ms. Mai was ordered raped as a punishment for her younger brother’s affair with a woman from a rival tribe, the Mastoi. Investigations later revealed that three Mastoi tribesmen had molested the boy, and the accusation against him had been false.
Officials said the authorities took action once the 16-year-old girl’s rape was reported to the province’s newly created Violence Against Women Center.
Salman Sufi, the director general of the Chief Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit, who helped to open the women’s center, said both girls had been given medical examinations.
After the news of the arrests became public, Saqib Nisar, the chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, ordered Punjab’s chief of police to conduct an inquiry into the incident.
Several junior officers and the Multan chief of police were suspended for their negligence following Thursday’s arrests, said Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the province’s chief minister, adding that an investigation into the conduct of the police would be carried out within 72 hours.
“I will not sit with ease until all accused are punished according to the law,” Mr. Sharif said at a news conference.
The rape case has caused an uproar in Pakistan and rights advocates decried the state of women’s rights in the country.
“It seems that nothing has changed since 2002,” Ms. Mai said in a telephone interview, referring to the year when her own case made international headlines. Ms. Mai now runs a nongovernmental organization for women’s rights in her village in the Muzaffargarh District. “Until poor people get justice, such incidents will keep happening. When the perpetrators of such crimes do not fear the law or punishment, when they enjoy political patronage, such practices will not stop.”
“It seems that my efforts of 15 years have gone to waste,” she said.