SC sets up panels to monitor borders

Source:  Tribune Published in Justice on Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court in the on-going hearing of a case regarding human trafficking across the ‘unmonitored’ borders of Pakistan has set up two panels to probe enforcement of relevant laws on the movement of people at Torkham and Chaman border crossings.

SC has given Term of References (ToRs) to the panels that will visit Torkham in Khyber Agency and Chaman in Balochistan to prepare comprehensive reports together with photographs, maps and other relevant documents.

The three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by chief justice Jawwad S Khawaja in its written order said that there was, prima facie, a gaping chasm between the laws and the government’s statements on enforcing the National Action Plan.

“We would like to ascertain the factual position by appointing two local commissions only in respect of two borders; a similar position may be inferred with regard to other borders,” the order further said.

The court said that FIA which was responsible for administering the Foreigners Act, Passports Act, Emigration Ordinance, Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance and the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance, seemed moribund and “the borders of Pakistan appear to be unmonitored; consequently, the menace of human trafficking, terrorism and smuggling flourishes.” The apex court said it was surprised that there appears to be no enforcement of the applicable laws on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan at Torkham and Chaman.

The bench asked the panel to see if FIA personnel were present at these two crossing points to monitor emigration and immigration. It also wants to see whether particulars of those entering and leaving Pakistan were maintained manually, biometrically, photographically or by any other means.

The court asked the panels to submit copies of such record for June 2015, and photographs of the immigration office at the two of the busiest border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Moreover, the commissions would report on presence and working of Customs personnel along with pictorial proof of Customs office at the Torkham and Chaman borders. The panels would also provide details of any facilities available for travellers.

The court has also sought detail of the authority controlling the entry into and exit from Pakistan with photographs of the said borders.

All federal and provincial authorities have been asked to extend full cooperation to the commission. The panels would submit their reports before September 1.

The commission that would report on Torkham border would be comprised of Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana, Additional Advocate General K-P Umer Farooq Adam, FIA Director Jaffar Shah and FBR International Customs Chief Zubair Yousfani. In respect of the Chaman border, the commission would be comprised of same officials except exclusion of Additional Advocate General K-P and inclusion of Assistant Advocate General Balochistan Shai Haq.

Desperate to leave Pakistan

The apex court in its order stated that every day there were reports of people desperate to leave Pakistan by any means. Some attempt to leave by launches while others take overland routes via Iran and Afghanistan. In these desperate attempts they actually play with their lives to leave Pakistan.

The court also took notice of a photograph appearing on the front page of ‘The Express Tribune’ on 20.8.2015. The photograph shows abandoned Pakistanis on a flimsy raft off the coast of Greece. There may be many more thousands of such cases in respect of Pakistani citizens risking their lives. Similarly, there is a flood of illegal immigrants into the country too, the bench observed.