It is heartening news that the government of Saudi Arabia, on the occasion of holy month of Ramadan, has released around 1500 prisoners who were involved in different crimes, including the smuggling of narcotics. Most of the prisoners released are from foreign countries, and a sizable numbers of Pakistanis are also on the list. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes the announcement of the release and urges the Saudi Kingdom to revisit the court decisions of the Pakistanis charged with smuggling narcotics and sentenced for beheading.
For a background, see the recent AHRC urgent appeal: [Save poor Pakistanis from being beheaded in Saudi Arabia] www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-095-2013
The AHRC’s urgent appeal documented the fact that there are powerful drug groups that operate freely in Pakistan and have close connections with the anti narcotic and customs authorities in both countries. The terrible aspect of this drug trafficking to Saudi Arabia is that the poorest of the poor are ensnared by these powerful drug groups and forced to ingest small bags of capsules containing drugs. In some cases, poor men are abducted and directly forced to become drug mules and, in others, relatives are held hostage until the job is completed and the drugs transported through Dammam airport in Saudi Arabia.
The AHRC has received numerous cases where innocent persons forced to carry narcotics have been sentenced to be beheaded, or to be imprisoned for 10, 15, or 20 years.
Some of these cases are detailed below.
Mohammad Javed, 25 years of age, son of Ghulam Jilani, resident of Chak number 33 BB, Khoshab tehsil, Punjab province, was a labourer at a brick kiln. He is now in Fasila jail, Dammam, sentenced for beheading. His passport number is CR8678721. He was contacted by a peddler, Abdul Qadir, resident of Nenalanwala, Jalalpur, Khushab district, phone number 92 3437513625, and offered an employment visa for Saudi Arabia against Pakistan Rupees 250,000. After two months, he was informed by Abdul to collect his visa from Hari Chand village, Tandi tehsil, Charssada district, KPK province. He went to Hari Chand with Abdul where he was detained in a dark room for three days. Then he was introduced to one travel agent, Samar Khan, son of Sardar Khan, phone number 92 3239090400. He instructed Mohammad Javed to inhale capsules of narcotics, which the victim refused. Mohammad was threatened with the dire consequences. One night he was injected with some substance, which made him unconscious during which time 102 capsules were forced into his stomach, something he did not know. In a semi-conscious condition he was boarded onto a plane. He slept all the way. When he landed at Dammam airport in Saudi Arabia, he was caught when he walked through the scanning machine. He arrived in Saudi Arabia on April 24, 2011. In 2012, he was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment, but on June 18, 2013, the sentence was converted to that of beheading.
The victim has given numerous details – including the contact numbers and addresses of the drug peddlers – to the Saudi authorities and courts, but no one has considered his innocence.
A big question arises as to how the airlines and the Islamabad airport authorities, including the staff of the anti narcotic agency, could allow a man to travel in a semi-conscious condition and that too without searching him and checking him through the scanning machines at their disposal. As is the case with numerous others, the drug peddlers and their agents went well-inside the airport to board their mule.
Some Life Sentence Cases:
Mohammad Akbar, 25 years old, son of Mohammad Shafiq, resident of Morh Ponegi village, Patoki tehsil, Qasoor district, was forced to take capsules when he and his cousin were detained and held hostage by the notorious gang of Haji Sattar of Mardan, KPK province. Haji Sattar is the person who sent many a young person as drug mules to Saudi Arabia. He also visits Saudi Arabia regularly in the shadow of Umra and Hajj – the Islamic obligations – to supervise his drug business.
Akbar has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. He came in contact with Haji Sattar through one Nazar, son of Fateh Mohammad, who offered to provide a visa to Saudi Arabia against Pakistan Rupees two hundred and fifty thousand. Being a worker in brick-kilns, he took loans from many and arranged the money within two months. He went to Islamabad to pick up his visa, but he was told, as usual, that his flight is delayed. He was then taken in a double cabin jeep to Mardan, KPK province, where he and his cousin brother were detained for three days and forced to carry the capsules. Both the brothers were threatened that they would be killed and, as their place of detention rests in a very remote area, when murdered, nobody will ever find their dead bodies. Akbar’s cousin was held hostage till Akbar reached Dammam.
Azizur Rehman, 23 years, son of Darror Khan, resident of Aulow, Mardan, KPK province, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in June 2012. He is married with one child. He used to be a tractor driver. Rehman came in contact with one person, Shahzad Khan of Takht Bai, Mardan, who offered him a Saudi visa. Rehman paid Pakistan Rupees one hundred thousand. Khan introduced him to Sattar Khan, the drug racketeer of Mardan. He was detained for three days, during which time he was beaten severely and threatened with murder. He was forced to inhale capsules, taken to Islamabad airport, and boarded in a plane headed for Saudi Arabia. The victim did not know where he was going and where he landed. Here again, the peddlers used their well organized old method, taking Azizur straight to the aeroplane without having to go through the security machines.
Syed Fahad Shah, aged 25, son of Syed Bashir Hussain Shah, resident of Multan city, Punjab, has been sentenced to fifteen years in prison. At the time of arrest, he had found a small job in Saudi Arabia. He came on an official visa six months before his arrest. In July 2011 a Pakistani arrived and stayed in the same place where Shah was staying. On July 4, 2011 police came and raided the room and confiscated the luggage of his roommate. Next day the police also arrested Syed Fahad for providing a home to the luggage holding narcotics. He was tried for abetting the narcotics business and sentenced to 15 years in prison, while his roommate was sentenced to 21 years.
Dost Mohammad, son of Pir Mohammad, resident of Peshawar, the capital of KPK province, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. He brought capsules to Saudi Arabia and was cleared by the airport authorities of Dammam. He was staying jointly with other country men in a common house. Because of the rivalry among the drug groups of Pakistan, one group informed the Saudi Authorities. Dost Mohammad was caught, but nothing was recovered from him. He informed the authorities about the real person of a particular gang who has taken narcotics from him. But the authorities have not yet arrested this person. But, Dost Mohammad has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Dost Mohammad was sent over as a mule by one Abdul Manan of Takht Bai, Mardan, who was working with Imran Mehmond, former Member of Provincial Assembly, killed recently in a suicide bomb blast.
There are other many other similar cases, where the real drug racketeers have not been nabbed but the carriers have been arrested and punished with heavy sentences including beheading.
At this particular time, that of the sacred month of Ramadan, the Saudi Arabian government has an even greater responsibility of saving the lives of innocent persons, forced to commit such crimes, because of threats of death, or murder of their loved ones, or due to severe poverty. The contrast between their fate and that of the real masterminds, the leaders of the drug groups operating in both countries could not be more acute. In Pakistan, in particular, the drug lords enjoy protection from corrupt officials at various levels of government, and enjoy every comfort of life. Authorities in both countries are maintaining a most shameless environment of injustice by doing nothing to prosecute the drug lords, and are instead punishing the poor carriers in inhuman ways.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urges upon the government of Saudi Arabia to revisit the sentences, including the sentences of beheading that have been handed to innocent persons forced to carry drugs. The Saudi government should also register its protest with the Pakistan government for collusive and inept handling of drug smuggling at the exit points, and for allowing the drug mafia that has flourished on Pakistani soil for being given the fullest opportunity to destroy Saudi society. The Asian Human Rights Commission also reiterates that the government of Pakistan cannot escape responsibility for taking much needed action against officials in the anti narcotics force, the police, and the customs and excise ministries, who are all colluding with drug mafias, allowing drug lords free operation within the country and easy access at exit points where innocent carriers are packed-off to likely imprisonment and death in a foreign land.