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Human trafficking: 89 most wanted criminals, backed by politicians, involved.

Byline: Zahid Gishkori

ISLAMABAD -- At least 89 most wanted human traffickers, majority of them from central Punjab, are carrying out their lucrative business in connivance with influential figures and the concerned authorities, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is going to compile a list of 89 key names involved in an international nexus of human trafficking. These human traffickers illegally send thousands of people through different routes to Gulf, Middle East, European and African countries.

FIA has been unable to substantiate its claims to curb this menace, with 178 officials from the Agency itself facing departmental inquiries since 2005. In response Director General FIA, Wasim Ahmad said "Action is being taken against the immigration officials allegedly involved in cooperating with human traffickers."

"Human trafficking has been a lucrative business worldwide, but its gravity dawned upon Pakistan as Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) intercepted over 40,000 persons at the Pakistan-Iran/Afghanistan borders since 2005," said a fresh Anti-Human Trafficking Report. Over 4,530 persons are involved in this illegal business, the report said.

However, from the list of 89 known human traffickers the FIA has booked only 9 since 2005. Wasim Ahmad said they would leave no stone unturned to curb the menace, but FIA has limited resources in the immigration wing.

Gujranwala is a key bastion of traffickers who are allegedly backed by political figures of the area. 41 absconders from this area are part of the list in the "Red Book", FIA Report 2009.

A FIA official, who requested anonymity, said that Muhammad Abid Gujjar, who was wanted by FIA for several human trafficking cases, is an ex-employee of the sitting federal minister from the area.

FIA sources said that Shahid Gondal, who has been declared an absconder by FIA anti-human trafficking circle Quetta, lives in village Megwal in Tehsil Sambrial of Sialkot and has worked with the former minister of minorities. Gondal smuggled children to Oman, where the minister's sons and daughters are settled and running an NGO "Peace by Grace," sources said. Five FIRs have been registered against Gondal at Quetta police station.

Anti-human trafficking circle Karachi has asked the FIA to put the name of Babu alias Pappu, an Indian citizen, at the top of the list in the proposed 'Red Book'. Pappu is believed to have smuggled women from Karachi to India and Muscat.

Wasim Ahmad said that all routes in border areas, especially routes through Gulistan, Chaman, Rabat, Nushki, Chagai, Mand Ballu, Punjgur, Taftan and Turbat, were being used by traffickers. However, he did not confirm whether the new edition of 'Red Book' has been made, due to secrecy.

Director Immigration FIA Zaffar Iqbal Awan said that a paradigm shift was needed to take action against human traffickers under the prevention and control human ordinance 2002.

Former DG FIA Zaffarullah Khan said that thousands of Pakistanis, especially girls from Fata and tribal areas, are being smuggled. Children, from Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and far flung areas of Punjab, are smuggled to Gulf countries to become camel jockeys. However, he denied that FIA's immigration staff has been cooperating with smugglers.

Legal Director FIA Azam Khan said that thousands of human trafficking/smuggling cases are pending in several courts across the country.
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Author:Zahid Gishkori
Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Oct 11, 2010
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