Minorities of Pakistan Forced to Flee, Die at Sea

pakistan greek boat tragedy

Named the worst migrant boat disaster in the Mediterranean Sea, the boat tragedy off Greece creates urgent questions. Of the 750 unfortunate passengers, 400, or more than half, were Pakistanis, among whom only 12 were given a second chance at life.

In the last couple of days, Pakistani media has remained focused and emphasised how its nationals received the worst treatment among all the travellers. They say how “people didn’t drown but were deliberately made to drown by the Greek coastguards”.

While it may be true that had the help been sent early, there would be more survivors, this statement exposes a great fallacy of the Pakistani establishment - the delusion that their problem is everyone’s problem. It also shows their lack of responsibility and ownership of mistakes.

The question should not be why the Greeks weren’t helpful enough, but what is urging Pakistanis, particularly religious and ethnic minorities, to leave the country illegally in an aspiration for a better life at such a heavy price?

Since the 1960s, minorities in Pakistan that could conjure up enough money emigrated to the UK, Australia, and the rest of Europe. These were mostly people from the oppressed states of Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Jammu-Kashmir (PoJK).

As for the ones that could not leave, over time, their status was reduced to that of invalids, and the government took over their sources of income. They were berated by others and shunned from the good society.

It is no surprise then that these people leave Pakistan illegally in desperation despite knowing the dangers.

There are accounts of people who have tried more than six times to leave Pakistan; some had all their money and valuables taken by the border security of Iran and Pakistan, some macerate in jails of Libya and Iran, the others are abducted and sold in the slave market, and the rest die as collateral damage for the organ trade market.

For some people, this is the only way to leave the country because their criticism of the government has earned them a bad reputation in the higher ranks. The only way to remain alive is to leave unnoticed.

The death toll explains why at least 21 people on the boat were from Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), which has been demanding freedom from Pakistan’s tyrannical rule. They have been robbed of their land and resources and brought to the status of slaves in their own territory. Anyone who raises a voice against the rule meets a painful end.

According to locals, from the Bandali village of PoJK, 22 youths traveled in this boat. Sadly, this isn’t even a village known for emigrating youth. It is from the Kotli district of PoJK that thousands of people leave illegally each year. If 22 people were from Bandali alone, one can imagine how big the number would be from the whole of PoJK.

Religious and ethnic minorities such as Shi’as, Ahmadiyas, tribal Baloch, Hazaras, etc. are the other group of people determined to leave Pakistan for another chance at life. They face bias and prejudice and are treated as lesser citizens since the inception of the state.

A heart-wrenching story is that of Shahida Raza, yesteryear’s female hockey star of Pakistan who met the same fate in a similar boat accident near Italy earlier this year. A Hazara Shi’ite from the mountains of the conflicted and ignored Balochistan died alone in a box in the middle of nowhere because the Pakistani government withdrew financial support from her when she had to pay her son's medical bills.

That is the price of living as a minority in Pakistan. Her achievements as a Pakistani sports star were not enough to keep her alive.

To quickly get the case off their hands and calm the nationwide agitation against such illegal migration and lack of vigilance by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, the government has arrested a dozen agents who took huge sums of money from people and painted pictures of greener pastures for them.

Human trafficking involves not just the agents but government and military officials at various levels that allow for it to happen. Why does the Pakistani government not want to get to the base of the pyramid? And why are they not investigating illegal migrations from the past?

There must be a reason why they don’t want to stir the pot too much lest it involves key government and military personalities. The event exposes the tragedies of the ignored class in Pakistan - bereft of hope and will to live, and ruled by shameless self-serving opulent with
decaying morals. Soon this heat will mellow down and the so-called crackdown will be diluted.

Elite patronage will continue their run for sinister money and move on to the next sensational issue, and the sun will set on the poor victims of the boat tragedy.

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