Prime suspect among 15 human traffickers arrested in Pakistan

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A representational image. — AFP/File
A representational image. — AFP/File
  • PM directs security czar to supervise ongoing investigation process.
  • Expresses anger over not taking timely action against traffickers.
  • Orders probe body to submit report after completing it at earliest.

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: At least 15 human traffickers — including the prime suspect — have been arrested so far during the ongoing countrywide crackdown linked with the migrant boat tragedy off the coast of Greece, authorities told a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday.

Chairing the high-level huddle regarding human smuggling and the recent capsizing of a boat in the Mediterranean near Greece, the premier directed the authorities concerned to bring the responsible for human trafficking to book at the earliest.

Authorities in Europe still have no clear idea how many people were aboard the ill-fated boat when it sank last week — estimates range from 400 to over 700 — but likely hundreds came from Pakistan, and many from Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK).

The United Nations Human Rights office said in a statement on Sunday that at least 500 people were still missing and that dozens of people were known to have perished. A good number of women and children were among the missing persons in the “horrific tragedy”. The ferry boat was carrying up to 750 people that went down 50 nautical miles off Pylos in southern Greece, it further said.

During the meeting, PM Shehbaz expressed resentment over not taking timely action to check human smuggling and taking concrete steps despite the repetition of such incidents.

He directed Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah to supervise the investigation process and formulate recommendations related to the necessary legislation to prevent human trafficking. The prime minister also ordered the investigation committee to submit the report after completing it at the earliest.

The meeting was informed that ten FIRs had been registered after the incident. It was further briefed that 104 people including 12 Pakistanis had been rescued, while 74 bodies had been recovered.

The premier also directed the relevant institutions to be in constant contact with the families of the victims, while the Pakistani embassy in Greece was further instructed to stay in touch with the Greece authorities regarding the incident.

Two more apprehended

Earlier today, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) apprehended two alleged human traffickers from Gujranwala linked with the migrant boat tragedy off the coast of Libya in February this year.

The development came after the FIA expanded the scope of its investigation into the recent Greece shipwreck incident and formed teams in major cities to bring the human traffickers to justice.

At least three Pakistanis perished in a boat wreck near Libya’s Benghazi city, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on February 28.

In another shipwreck incident off Libya’s coast on January 31, at least 16 Pakistanis lost their lives. “There were 32 Pakistanis among 80 to 90 people aboard the boat,” the foreign office had confirmed.

A spokesperson of the FIA said that the suspected human traffickers had received Rs2.5 million from a citizen named Umair Yahya for transporting him to Europe. Yahya had died in the shipwreck incident.

The arrested human traffickers were identified as Mohsin Javed and Sharafat Ali. The FIA has registered a case against the suspected human traffickers and launched investigations into the incident.

Pakistan starts DNA testing to identify victims

In order to identify the bodies of the Greece shipwreck victims, the government has formed a 10-member team comprising renowned doctors. The team will collect DNA samples from the relatives of the victims.

The 10-member team has reached the Khuiratta area of Kotli District to collect the DNA samples for cross-matching, the Mirpur division commissioner confirmed on June 19.

Authorities in Europe still have no clear idea how many people were aboard the boat when it sank — estimates range from 400 to over 700 — but likely hundreds came from Pakistan, and many from Azad Jammu Kashmir. As per the foreign media reports, over 80 people have died and hundreds were still missing.

The United Nations Human Rights office said in a statement on Sunday that at least 500 people were still missing and that dozens of people were known to have perished. A good number of women and children were among the missing persons in the “horrific trage­dy”. The ferry boat was carrying up to 750 people that went down 50 nautical miles off Pylos in southern Greece, it further said.


— Additional input from Radio Pakistan 



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