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Twenty bodies, one story

20 young men brutally killed in Turbat have drawn attention to the persistent problem of human trafficking

Twenty bodies, one story

November 15. Balochistan Police found fifteen bullet-ridden bodies from mountains of Buleda in the border area of Balochistan province.

According to the provincial government, these people, mostly youngsters, were brutally massacred, allegedly by Baloch separatist group Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). They were attacked while attempting to cross the Pakistani border to enter Iran. Only two-days after this tragedy, police found another five bullet-ridden bodies of youngsters trying to cross the Pakistani border into Iran.

Teenager Haider Ali from village Jethikay in district Sialkot is one of the lucky survivors of November 15 tragedy. Sharing his ordeal, he says, “Their handlers divided them in two groups in Quetta and packed them in two separate vehicles. Luckily, our vehicle broke down on the way and they had to stop. While the driver was trying to find the fault we heard rounds and rounds of firing,” he says, adding, “Soon after the firing, I started running back. I ran for hours for my life until I reached a tea-stall whose owner helped me by paying for my journey back home.” This boy was in the second group.

The local agent, who has run away after the tragedy, gave 20 young men in the custody of a Quetta-based human trafficker. “He blind-folded us and threw us in a container taking us to an undisclosed location.” Ali’s two friends, who were with him, lost their lives during their ‘dream-journey’. They were told by the agent that they would enter Iran from where they would go to Turkey and then further into Europe. Ali is the eldest among his six siblings and wanted to go abroad and earn good money.

“Luckily, our vehicle broke down on the way. While the driver was trying to fix the fault we heard rounds and rounds of firing. I started running back. I ran for hours for my life until I reached a tea-stall whose owner helped me by paying for my journey home.”

Ali and his two friends paid nearly one million rupees in total to their agents to cross the border of Greece into Europe.

This tragedy is followed by a series of crackdown on human traffickers. The Federal Investigation Agency claims to have arrested a dozen of them.

“We are taking preventive measures to control human trafficking. This issue needs awareness and we are also focusing on that. However, socio-economic conditions are the key reason behind this trend of going abroad by any means,” says Tariq Malik, FIA’s Director Immigration. He says the agency is trying to develop effective mechanisms and joint task-force with other relevant organisations in Balochistan to combat human trafficking. According to FIA data, as many as 400 human traffickers have been arrested this year while nearly 2,000 people have been prosecuted for their alleged involvement in human trafficking.

Pakistan has also amended its national strategic framework against trafficking in persons and human smuggling to extend it through 2020 and ratified the Optional Protocol to Convention on the Rights of the Child in Armed Conflict. In 2005, Pakistan had established an inter-agency task force comprising FIA, and Balochistan law enforcement agencies.

Pakistan-Iran-Turkey-Greece (Europe) is one of the most common route for human trafficking for the past many years. Every year, it is said, thousands of Pakistanis try to cross borders of Iran and Turkey to enter Europe.

According to the FIA, Iran is deporting nearly 25,000 illegal Pakistani-immigrants every year. Around 29,000 Pakistanis were deported by Iran only in 2016 while attempting to enter Europe via Turkey.

A recent report on Trafficking in person by the US State Department has put Pakistan in tier 2 watch-list, a category reserved for countries which fail to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year while the Global Slavery Index 2016 ranks Pakistan number six among 167 countries.

“The Government of Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” the US report reads.

The watch list also indicates a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.

The report while mentioning Pakistan’s trafficking profile mentions that Pakistani men and women migrate voluntarily to the Gulf states and Europe for low-skilled employment — such as domestic service, driving, and construction work; some become victims of labour trafficking. False job offers and high recruitment fees charged by illegal labour agents or sub-agents of licensed Pakistani overseas employment promoters entrap Pakistanis into sex trafficking and bonded labour.

Some Pakistani children and adults with disabilities are forced to beg in Iran. Pakistan is a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour — particularly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Women and girls from Afghanistan, China, Russia, Nepal, Iran, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking in Pakistan. Refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Burma, as well as religious and ethnic minorities such as Christians and Hazaras, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in Pakistan.

Waqar Gillani

waqar gillani
The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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