All street interviews on YouTube featuring Pakistani youth have one common feature - the shared sentiment of going abroad for a better life. Pakistan runs on monopolistic dynasty rule where meritorious students and deserving candidates have zero probability of rising to the top.
Therefore the blood of 400 innocent Pakistanis close to Greece is on the hands of the Pakistan government. The boat tragedy is the biggest example of the plight of an ordinary Pakistani. They will do anything in their power to leave the country.
Today, Pakistanis are scattered through Europe on street corners of tourist boulevards selling handmade trinkets and souvenirs, with desperate eyes and empty expressions.
The saddest and the most astonishing aspect is that these people are not illiterate or poor, they belong mostly to the middle-income group of educated professionals that were well-respected back home by their peers, but robbed of their dignity and freedom by the government; besides that, respect couldn’t buy them substandard wheat nor could it keep them safe from the aftermath of the 2022 floods.
They feel the only way out for them is to pay $10,000 per adult and $4,500 per child to human smugglers, and travel in air-tight containers like inanimate objects to Europe or Australia and seek asylum. They know it's a consensual form of human trafficking but they’d rather take the risk for a better life than stay back and slowly watch Pakistan slip into the abyss.
A study based on interactions with Pakistanis that have escaped this way showed that 75 percent lived in insecurity and lack of freedom rights; more than 50 percent left because of violence and conflict; and 33 percent moved for financially greener pastures.
The demographic distribution of the people from the Greek boat tragedy and the ones before it isn’t too surprising - most of them were Baloch and from Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the minorities and oppressed section of Pakistan.
A victim of a similar boat tragedy along the southern Italian coast in February was yesteryear’s female hockey star of Pakistan, Shahida Raza, a Hazara Shi’ite from the mountains of Quetta. Despite the shortcomings of hailing from the conflicted and ignored Balochistan, she championed to the top representing the nation internationally as a professional kickboxer and in wushu, only to be spat out when she was no longer needed.
If someone so important and honourable can meet such an end, dying alone in a box in the middle of nowhere, what must be the condition of others in Pakistan?
The Pakistan Hockey Federation made a statement that Raza “died in an accident”. But what about the events of her life, her struggles of being a religious minority from an invaded state - all that which transpired before her taking this major step to fend for herself?
It wasn’t an accident, it was a murder. The murder of aspirations of the common Pakistani, the annihilation of their freedom, and the death of democracy.
The helpless people of Kotli, Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, must have felt the same way as her. Trapped under either the iron fist of the Pakistan Army, government laws that have enslaved them in their own land and exploited all local resources, or Punjabi vigilantes that play God, there is little to live for.
The fact that Pakistanis are more eager to leave the country than neighboring Afghanistan, swimming in war since time immemorial says a lot. For decades media censorship has hidden these stories from Pak citizens. Islamabad had been holding the lid over their box of dirty secrets; alas, this tragedy was too big and international to contain.
About 3 million people are trafficked every year from the South Asian country. Running in huge profits many agencies provide smuggling services and paint a pretty picture of life beyond Pakistan. They earn a minimum of $800 per person that they smuggle.
The country is placed on the tier-two watchlist for its incapability of putting an end to human trafficking by the American State Department. The report credits Pakistan’s lenient and complacent attitude towards the subject that demands the most attention.
Perhaps it is a created problem, and that’s why authorities have failed to launch a massive crackdown against it. Some citizens claim that both the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) and the police are paid off by the agents, as it is nearly impossible to run this racket under the vigilance of high-security checkpoints along the Balochistan-Iran border.
A press release issued by the Pak PMO said that “the national flag will fly on half-mast” to declare mourning for the deceased of the boat tragedy. And tomorrow again, when people stand in the queue to fight for an iota of wheat flour, their survival instincts will surface and the tragedy will be yesterday’s news.
Islamabad will continue its business-as-usual approach and wait for another reason to embarrass itself globally.