Pakistan News

Panels formed on illegal border crossing

Panels formed on illegal border crossing

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court constituted on Friday two commissions with the task of submitting comprehensive reports on illegal crossing into Pakistan by people through the towns of Chaman and Torkham bordering Afghanistan.

The terms of reference of the commissions will be issued by the court later.

The Torkham border commission, headed by Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana, comprises Additional Advocate General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Umar Farooq Adam, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director Jaffar Shah and a senior officer from the customs department. The Chaman border commission consists of the same officials, except Additional Advocate General of Balochistan who will replace his KP counterpart.

The commissions were constituted by a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, which had taken up an appeal filed by Raja Mohammad Farooq seeking cancellation of bail for Azhar Iqbal allegedly involved in human trafficking.

Azhar Iqbal, along with Ali Raza and Walid Raza, is accused of illegally sending people to Greece through sea. Amjad Hussain, one of the victims who was smuggled to Greece in 2011 after making a payment of Rs800,000, was killed over a money dispute after reaching Turkey.

Take a look: SC surprised over meagre allocation for FIA’s investigations

The commissions are required to submit their reports by Sept 1 containing photographs of the customs and immigration desks at the two border posts.

FIA Director Jaffar Shah informed the court that the Torkham border did not come under FIA’s jurisdiction because it was situated in Fata. The post is manned by personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC) and some local elders. He alleged that the people having no a valid visa or passport could enter or exit Pakistan from this post without any difficulty.

At this Justice Qazi Faez Isa said the FC personnel were deployed there to maintain law and order, and not to check immigration. “It seems that it is not in the mandate of the FIA to curb terrorism in the country,” he regretted. He said he wondered if the government was sensitive to checking the areas from where terrorists entered the country.

Justice Dost Mohammad Khan asked why the Khasadar force deployed in some border areas regularly gave millions of rupees to local political agents. He recalled incidents of firing by people who were stopped while crossing into the country.

In its order, the court observed that the situation was very alarming and regretted that the FIA did not have sufficient budget to handle the situation.

It also referred to the argument of Interior Secretary Shahid Khan that insufficient financial resources did not hamper FIA’s working and recalled that the total annual allocation for the FIA in budget for 2015-16 was Rs1.6 billion, of which 80 per cent was spent on salary of its staff and the remaining 20pc on its functions.

The order said that a meagre amount of Rs1.6 million had been earmarked for FIA’s investigations but the interior secretary explained that other expenses like telephone bills, postage, telefax, etc, could be utilised for investigation purposes.

It said the secretary did not think that the fund available to the FIA was insufficient which was quite surprising. People were desperate to leave Pakistan by any means and in such attempts they even put their lives at stake which was reflective in cases like the instant one, the court said.

There may be thousands of such cases which highlight the lack of resources available to law-enforcement agencies. It was also surprising that nothing had been done so far by the FIA to prosecute a single person in this regard, the order regretted.

“We have found as if the FIA has no clue how to enforce its own statute because of which the activity of terrorism and smuggling cannot be curbed in this country,” the order said, adding that the court was surprised to learn that the FIA had no jurisdiction over the Chaman and Torkham posts.

It said that although KP Additional Advocate General Umar Farooq had stated that a checkpost existed half a kilometre inside Pakistan at Torkham, both the border posts were not being monitored and it was not very difficult to enter or exit Pakistan from these posts.

“We have been informed many times that the government is serious in fighting terrorism and acting on the National Action Plan developed after the Dec 16, 2014 garish incident at the Army Public School in Peshawar. But it has emerged that prima facie there is a gap between efforts and objective reality in curbing terrorism,” the court regretted.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2015

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