ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has registered 149 cases and arrested 41 human smugglers in connection with a boat tragedy in which hundreds of Pakistanis lost their lives in Greece, according to a statement issued on Monday.

With at least five inquiries into the trafficking of Pakistani nationals underway, the FIA has also decided to proceed against the alleged agents who facilitated the illegal voyage under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, as well as the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PACHTO) and other relevant laws.

According to the statement, the decision was taken during a visit by FIA Director General Mohsin Hassan Butt and Additional Director General (North) Rana Abdul Jabbar to the Zonal Headquarters in Lahore.

FIA Lahore Director Sarfraz Virk and Faisalabad Director Rai Ijaz Ahmed apprised them of the progress against the human traffickers involved in the boat tragedy.

Agency says raiding parties in touch with heirs of trafficking victims

Mr Ahmed briefed that 41 ‘human smugglers’ have been arrested from Lahore and Faisalabad zones.

The FIA DG directed him to constitute more teams to ensure the expeditious arrest of other suspects.

According to the FIA, raiding parties are in constant liaison with the legal heirs of trafficking victims and are making all-out efforts for the arrest of human smugglers.

Order to block CNICs, blacklist passports

The DG has directed to invoke the Anti-Money Laundering Act against the suspects and also ordered the immediate blocking of their Computerised National Identity Cards and bank accounts.

The FIA has also decided to blacklist the passports of traffickers involved in the tragedy and instructed the officials at airports to stop them from fleeing the country.

Last week, an FIA spokesperson had said that 54 cases were registered against human smugglers in Lahore, Gujranwala, and Gujrat.

In the first two weeks of June, FIA’s Lahore zone arrested 17 alleged traffickers, while seven suspects were captured in Gujrat, two in Lahore, and eight in Gujranwala. More­over, a parliamentary body is expected to get a briefing from the Ministry of Human Rights on the boat disaster in the coming week.

Last month, an Italy-bound fishing trawler reportedly carrying at least 800 people capsized off Greece. The tragedy was believed to have taken place in the presence of maritime authorities. The incident led to a day of mourning along with the launch of a nationwide crackdown on human smugglers with many subsequently arrested.

Data suggested there were up to 300 Pakistani victims on the overloaded boat that capsized.

It was also believed that Pakistani nationals were forced to stay below the deck by the crew and they were maltreated during the journey.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2023

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