Pakistan identifies 14 Iranian human traffickers; seeks Interpol help to nab them

Khizar Abbas, 28, runs a general store in his village in Mandranwala, Sialkot district, after his dream to reach Italy was shattered following his arrest in Iran. (AN photo)
Updated 29 December 2017
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Pakistan identifies 14 Iranian human traffickers; seeks Interpol help to nab them

SIALKOT: Khizar Abbas’ dream of reaching Italy ended in Iran when he was arrested with a number of other illegal migrants. But, he told Arab News, he was one of the lucky ones.
“Iranian (smugglers) shot four of our group just because they were tired and pleaded for some water and rest for a few minutes,” he said. “This horrifying scene haunts me.”
Abbas, a resident of Mandranwala village in Sialkot, Punjab, left for Mashkel, a border town in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Nov. 9, along with 30 other men who aimed to reach Europe through Iran.
“The agents kept us in a small room for two days in Mashkel which was already crammed with around 200 men aged between 20 and 35,” he said, explaining that they then a group of around 250 men then met up with Iranian agents for the next leg of their journey, to Turkey.
The Iranian “agents” divided them into small groups and took them via the mountains to Tehran.
“All of us were thinking that we had put our lives at risk,” he said. “Almost all of us wanted to return, but the agents thrashed those who asked to be released with canes.
“We were lucky that our group was arrested at a checkpoint at the outskirts of Tehran,” Abbas continued. He said a large number of men and women from Pakistan and Afghanistan were already being held there.
Having been held in a number of different detention centers, Abbas returned home on Nov. 29 and is back to running a general store to make ends meet.
Abbas’ deal with the agent was for $6,000 till Greece, but he only paid $3,500 because he was arrested and deported from Iran. His elder brother is already in Athens for the last 7 years and earning well there. So, they are well off and did not sell anything. "It was just lure of Europe that pushed him to take the risk."
Thousands of Pakistanis risk their lives each year to travel to Europe in search of better jobs with the help of human traffickers, but the majority end up in jail or dead.
In November this year, 20 people attempting to cross the Pakistan-Iran border illegally, with help from local and Iranian smugglers, were killed by militants in Turbat, Balochistan.
Following an investigation into that incident, Pakistan identified 14 Iranian human traffickers and letters have been sent to Interpol requesting their arrest.
“Agents in Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Germany were in contact with local agents in Quetta and those in Iran for getting these intending emigrants to Italy and Germany through Iran, Turkey and Greece,” a 25-page report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) revealed.
“Letters have been issued to Interpol and MoFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to contact Iranian authorities and apprehend 14 Iranian agents,” Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal informed the National Assembly in a written response.
Talking to Arab News, Minister of State for Interior Affairs Tallal Chaudhry said the government has resolved to take stringent measures to choke the notorious human trafficking land route from Pakistan to Iran.
“We have conveyed our concerns to Iranian authorities through official channels and asked them for a wider crackdown on human smugglers operating on their soil,” he said, referring to a meeting between the director general of the FIA and his Iranian counterpart last week.
The minister revealed that Pakistan has also shared intelligence about smugglers operating in Turkey, Greece and Germany with the relevant authorities and requested a crackdown from them as well.
“Iran has assured us of full cooperation to arrest the human smugglers operating on its soil,” he said. “We can bring the illegal migration of Pakistanis to Europe down to a minimum only if other countries like Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy cooperate with us.”
Human smuggling and trafficking is often quoted as the third most lucrative source of organized-crime revenue after weapons and drugs, amounting to over $32 billion per year.
The FIA told Pakistan's Supreme Court in a report that 6,767 Pakistanis entered European countries illegally through Iran in 2017 alone, while 27,749 were deported — 18,810 from Iran; 4,401 from Turkey and 4,538 from EU countries.
The report says that the most common route for illegal migration is overland from Pakistan to Iran,Turkey and then Greece.
“The illegal migrants leave Pakistan via unmanned or unofficial border crossings located along unfrequented routes into Iran,” the report says, identifying Pakistan’s Gujranwala district as “the origin of the majority” of them.
“Pakistani nationals are among the 10 most-detected nationalities that attempt irregular migration to the European Union and Australia,” says a UNODC report.
Another Mandranwala native, 45-year-old Amjad Ali, reached Greece in 2002 after six months travelling on foot from Iran to Turkey. He remained there until 2014.
“I worked at a dairy farm in Greece for 12 years, earned a lot of money, but I would still suggest aspiring illegal migrants don’t risk their lives just for the dream of a better life,” he told Arab News.
Amjad paid $4,000 to the smugglers
Despite the fact that every time an illegal migrant is killed, Pakistani authorities vow to take action, the FIA report revealed, “No proper law to control human smuggling has been enacted.”


Kashmir Valley shuts down in protest over civilian killings by Indian forces

An Indian police officer fires tear smoke shell on Kashmiri protesters attempting to march to an Indian military base in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. (AP)
Updated 18 December 2018
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Kashmir Valley shuts down in protest over civilian killings by Indian forces

  • Srinagar and adjoining areas observed complete shutdown for the third consecutive day on Monday

NEW DELHI: Indian security forces put separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir under house arrest on Monday to thwart their march to an army camp in Srinagar to protest the killing of civilians by army personnel in Pulwama district on Saturday.
The leaders of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) — a group of separatist leaders — were put under house arrest when they tried to march toward the Badami Bagh army camp in Srinagar.
The call for the march came after seven civilians were killed and dozens of people were injured in the Sirnoo village of the Pulwama district on Saturday when security forces opened fire at a mob that thronged the site where three terrorists and a soldier were killed on Saturday.
“The killing of common Kashmiris is deeply saddening,” said JRL chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in a statement after the house arrest.
“We are not even allowed to express our sorrow and mourn these brutalities as our tormentors give us no space to grieve collectively and express our outrage and overwhelming emotions at these killings,” Farooq said after the house arrest.
“Civilians are branded as members of the underground and terrorists which is preposterous … what is worse is that this propaganda is used as a means of endorsing and justifying the civilians killings by armed forces,” said Farooq.
Srinagar and adjoining areas observed complete shutdown for the third consecutive day on Monday.
Life in the southern district of Pulwama also remained paralyzed.
“People are mourning but they are also very angry. If the government thinks that by killing people they can scare them, that is not happening. More and more youth are picking up guns in anger,” said a Pulwama-based journalist.
Dr. Hina Bhat, a senior leader of the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that “the people themselves are to be blamed for this tragedy.”
“The killing of the civilians and the whole turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir are really unfortunate. We have been requesting that whenever there is an encounter between the forces and militants, the civilians should stay away. They cannot disturb the ongoing operation. Forces and the Indian government cannot sit back and see the militancy growing,” Bhat said.
Talking to Arab News, the valley-based BJP leader condemned the separatist leaders “for taking the state hostage. They have been doing it for decades and such activities have only increased the civilian killings.”
Farooq, however, said that branding civilians as underground members and terrorists is “preposterous” and “what is worse is that this propaganda is used as a means of endorsing and justifying the civilians’ killings by armed forces.”
The separatist leader also said that Indian government has overplayed its terrorist card, branding people as a proxy of Pakistan.
“Such propaganda is aimed at electoral gains as the world sees for itself the ever-growing graph of atrocities and massacres of Kashmiris who are only asking for a just and peaceful resolution to the dispute,” Farooq said.
He said: “We want lasting and durable peace. We want an end to bloodshed on all sides and the only guarantee of that is a political resolution of the Kashmir dispute, not a military solution.”
Professor Siddiq Wahid called the civilian killings “the sealing up of a nation’s heart, the excision of its memory.”
“People are now more defiant of the security forces because they are convinced that New Delhi in its arrogance calculates that it can solve the problem through a military response rather than the recognition of the need to tolerate protest and initiate dialogue,” said the Srinagar-based academic.
“It is high time that the Indian government recognize that people matter even more than mere territory. It should recognize that the dispute exists and that only civilized way to resolution is through dialogue with a people who are considerably less powerful than India’s million strong army but support a morally legitimate struggle against denied rights, liberties and life itself,” Wahid said.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, has asked the Indian government “to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the indiscriminate use of force.”
“Security forces are aware that villagers gather, protest during gunfights with Kashmir militants and have a responsibility to ensure civilians are not at risk,” she said in a tweet.