Unemployed youth from Punjab easy prey for traffickers

Published November 17, 2017
TURBAT: Balochsitan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and other parliamentarians on Thursday offer funeral prayers for the 15 men who were found shot dead a day earlier.—APP
TURBAT: Balochsitan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Commander Southern Command Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch and other parliamentarians on Thursday offer funeral prayers for the 15 men who were found shot dead a day earlier.—APP

GUJRAT: Khurram Shahzad, 30, was found killed on Wednesday along with 14 other labourers travelling in the Turbat area of Balochistan with plans to cross the border into Iran on their way to Europe.

He had paid a human trafficker Rs300,000 to smuggle him into Europe, but in order to afford the steep price, he had borrowed Rs85,000 from a brick kiln owner. The debt will have to be paid off by the deceased’s brother.

The family, hailing from Charran­wala village in the Pahrianwali police precincts of Phalia tehsil in Mandi Bahauddin district, had been on the breadline for a long time. Hoping to make some money working abroad, Shahzad had left his home nearly six days ago with some other residents of Mandi Bahauddin.

Residents of the area said the Rs85,000 borrowed to send Shahzad away would now be paid off by his brother, who would continue as a bonded labourer till he repaid every penny.

Four of the 14 labourers killed in Turbat hailed from Mandi Bahauddin district

The deceased has left behind three children and his wife from a second marriage, as his first marriage had ended in a divorce, said one of Shahzad’s neighbours, adding that crossing the border illegally into Europe to seek greener pastures appeared to be a sensible option for many young people living in abject poverty in rural areas.

He said it was true that many of the young people looking to enter Europe illegally ended up drowning or getting killed by border security guards.

Azhar Waqas from Parhana Lok, near Malakwal city in Mandi Bahauddin district, was told by a local human trafficking agent that he would help him get settled in Europe, where he would have a better chance of getting gainful employment. But he was killed instead, mourned Nasir, Waqas’s brother.

Waqas’s uncle Khan Mohammad said that if the government provided young people opportunities and avenues for employment, they would never think of running off to other countries illegally and put their lives through extreme danger.

He demanded that the government take strict measures to end illegal human trafficking.

Waqas had four brothers and a widowed mother.

The human traffickers use trains, buses, vans and trucks to transport their clients to various posts, as well as travel several miles by foot.

Their clients first have to sneak into neighbouring Iran, then Turkey from where they enter Greece and then onward to further European destinations.

The Gujranwala region, especially Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot, Wazirabad and Hafizabad areas, have been a hub of the human trafficking business for a long time, apparently because they can find a willing clientele easily.

A large number of Pakistani expatriates in Europe hail from Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin and Jhelum districts. Many of them live financially stable lives and ‘tales’ of their ‘prosperity’ encourage others to attempt moving there as well.

Zulfiqar Ali of Malakwal city was among the 15 victims. He had gotten married five years ago and had an 18-month-old daughter.

Saifullah of Dhab village near the Tanda area of Gujrat was also among the victims. The bodies of these four victims were driven to their homes late on Thursday in Rescue 1122 ambulances.

High-ranking government officials and law enforcement personnel offered funeral prayers in Turbat. The coffins were wrapped in national flag.

After the bodies were brought to Punjab from Balochistan on a C-130 plane, they were taken from the Lahore airport to the respective hometowns of the deceased in Rescue-1122 vehicles.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced a sum of Rs1m for the heirs of each of the deceased.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2017

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