AJK police arrest 10 ‘sub-agents’ for alleged involvement in smuggling of Greece shipwreck victims


The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) police arrested on Sunday 10 “sub-agents” allegedly involved in the smuggling of people to Europe via the Middle East and Africa, including those who died in the recent Greece boat tragedy.

On Wednesday, an overloaded boat — with around 750 people on board according to a European rescue support charity — sank in open seas off Greece. Many Pakistanis are feared dead although the exact number has not yet been officially confirmed.

The Foreign Office said on Saturday that 12 Pakistanis had been found alive as National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf urged the government to “immediately investigate” the incident.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif formed a four-member committee to probe the facts of the shipwreck and directed law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to trace those involved in human smuggling.

Talking to Dawn.com, Kotli Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Muhammad Riaz Mughal confirmed that 21 people from AJK had been aboard the ship and were missing.

He said 19 of these people belonged to Khuiratta and the remaining hailed from neighboring Charhoi.

SSP Mughal revealed that as many as 10 “sub-agents” were arrested in AJK during the last 24 hours.

“The arrests were made after the police chalked out an effective strategy in the light of the information shared by the families of the victims about the persons who had trapped the victims into landing them in Europe against millions of rupees,” he told Dawn.com.

Mughal said the suspects were booked under sections 418 (cheating with the knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to a person whose interest offender is bound to protect), 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), and 322 (punishment for murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

“They were sub-agents or agents of main human traffickers Chaudhry Zulqarnain, Talat Kiani, and Khalid Mirza, who belong to Kotli and Mirpur and are based in Libya.

“During the preliminary interrogation, the suspects made harrowing disclosures about how and for whom they operated and who else was involved in the ghastly business,” SSP Mughal said.

He further said that the suspects charged Rs2.5 to Rs3 million from each person, and would fly them legally first to the UAE and then to Egypt and Libya. “From Libya, the illegal voyage started through the Mediterranean Sea.”

“We are on the lookout for some other suspects as well,” SSP Mughal said, adding that the arrested persons would be produced before a judicial magistrate on Monday for physical remand.