ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday summoned the interior and foreign secretaries and Punjab advocate general, while hearing a case pertaining to human trafficking in the country, especially Punjab where a number of such cases have surfaced lately.
The apex court had taken a suo motu notice of human smuggling after the tragic discovery in Turbat, Balochistan of bullet-riddled bodies of around a dozen men, mostly from Punjab, who were attempting to illegally crossover into Europe via Iran.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, observed that the human trafficking issues stemmed from lack of coordination between the state institutions.
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Ahmed Memon admitted before the court that human smuggling is a pressing issue in Gujranwala to which the CJP stated that the court will direct the Punjab government to set up an FIA office in Gujranwala and Gujrat.
The judges pointed out that people-trafficking has also rife in the areas of Gujrat, Lala Musa, Sarae Alamgir and Mandi Bahauddin.
“The ulcer of human-smuggling has to be eradicated,” CJP observed.
He said the court will direct the Punjab police to assist the FIA in fighting against the menace.
The court dismissed the DG FIA’s response that the department lacked resources. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua also criticised the DG FIA and regretted that the agency was unable to curb human smuggling.
Justice Nisar observed that it was the government’s responsibility to formulate a policy to put an end to human trafficking in the country.
Separately, FIA arrested as many as three alleged human smugglers in raids conducted in Sheikhupura and Mandi Bahauddin.
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities handed over 58 illegal Pakistani immigrants to FIA at Taftan border in Chagai district. They were arrested from different cities of Iran without valid documents.
Earlier, FIA claimed to have arrested four human smugglers along with the central character of a human trafficking network linked to the incident where a boat carrying illegal migrants capsized near the Libyan coast, resulting in the deaths of many Pakistanis.
FIA officials said the suspects were rounded up after raids were conducted in Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin and Gujranwala.
On Saturday, the Foreign Office (FO) had said that 16 Pakistanis died in the boat sinking incident off the Libyan coast. A boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Zuwara, Libya early Friday, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Spokesperson Olivia Headon had confirmed to reporters in Geneva by phone from Tunis.
“At least 90 migrants are reported to have drowned when a boat capsized off the coast of Libya this morning,” the agency added in a statement. The deceased Pakistanis belonged to Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Rawalpindi and Sargodha areas of Punjab.
On Sunday, FIA officials had said that the four human smugglers and the central character of the human trafficking ring, identified as Mehboob Shah, were connected to a network of human traffickers involved in sending Pakistani nationals to Libya and onwards to Europe.
Mehboob was arrested along with an accomplice, namely Mudassir, FIA Deputy Director Mufakhir Adeel had said. “The central character is the administrative head of Baba Faqeer Shah darbar and was directly involved in sending the deceased Pakistanis to Libya,” Adeel had added.