Aaj English TV

Monday, May 20, 2024  
11 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

KP’s young men book an appointment with death

The dream of a better fortune in Europe has taken the lives of many
KP youngsters paying price of their dream with their lives | They take illegal route to enter Europe

Ameerullah stares blankly at the ceiling. His face turned upwards is all that is visible of him. The rest has disappeared in a blanket someone swaddled him in. Family says he hasn’t been the same since November.

The decline in Ameerullah’s mental health is linked to his 24-year-old son, Ajeerullah. He was the only one who could bring in enough to support the family that lives in Landi Kotal. According to one of his sisters, who is married, Ajeerullah had taken a loan to travel to Turkey four years ago but because he could not earn enough the family went into a further one million rupees in debt to send him to try his luck in Italy in October.


Ajeer’s cousin and friend Liaquat spoke to him on the phone as he crossed Bosnia’s border and he seemed happy that he was so close to his goal. But then they lost contact. Four days later, one of Ajeer’s companions called to reveal that he had drowned and the search was still on for his body.

Transporting the body back to Pakistan was a challenge and it could only be accomplished with the help of Senator Muhammad Afridi. But it cost the already-indebted family more money.

But at least Ajeerullah’s body made it home, they say. Hidayat Khan, from Upper Dir’s Darora, who made his way from Greece to Turkey to Serbia in 2011, has still not been found.

He started his journey through an agent in Peshawar who he paid Rs300,000. When he reached Greece, the family had to pay him an extra Rs500,000 because he wanted to go to France. But he lost contact with family in Serbia. The journey was never completed. Eleven years have gone by.

Hidyat Khan
Hidyat Khan

Hidayat’s father and siblings are still waiting for him, but there is not news of either him or his agent.

Even though hundreds have already lost their lives on a journey to better fortunes abroad, every month there are dozens more who make their way through Balochistan, Iran, Turkey and on to Greece.

One of them is Landi Kotal’s Ahsan, who left home after a struggle with poverty to turn his luck around.

Ahsan told Aaj News that dozens of young men try to immigrate illegally every month from Landi Kotal alone. Not only is the route difficult, but is sometimes so deadly that even a body doesn’t manage to make it home.

When asked why he chose this way despite knowing the risk involved, Ahsan said that poverty had taken its toll on him. Daily life had become impossible to live and the future looked bleak. And Europe had always been a dream, so he took his chances.

Rasheedullah Shinwari is another youth with the same story. He was arrested while crossing into Greece and was deported.

Rasheed says that up to Rs250,000 can be earned in Europe a month. In Pakistan, even 30 people working together would struggle to make the same amount.

Residing in Turkey as an illegal immigrant, he worked in a shoe factory. He says that if caught by the police, people like him were kept in custody for four to five days. Unlucky ones would be deported.

Rasheed (left) in conversation with his friends
Rasheed (left) in conversation with his friends

For Rasheed, the number was seven. He was deported on his seventh arrest, as he tried to cross into Greece.

A brush with death

Ahsan said that he left home without letting his parents know. But he a got a call from his father when he reached the Iran border.

“Where are you?” his father asked. Everyone here is saying you are going to Turkey?

Ahsan replied that the rumours were true, and he had almost entered Iran. His father pleaded with him to return, promising that he would work harder to give his son a better life. But Ahsan did not listen.


He made it to Turkey after a long winding journey, but it was here that the real danger began. While crossing the border into Turkey, agents egged the immigrants on from one side and border security pushed back from the other, even resorting to gunfire.

The group crossed into Turkey and travelled on for about 45 minutes until being sighted by the border force. Bullets from the guards killed one of Ahsan’s companions immediately, at which he refused to run any further. When the forces approached, they gave Ahsan a thrashing, after which he was deported in an injured state.

Rasheed’s story is even more tragic, because he saw multiple deaths along the way. Trying to run for their lives despite injuries, he and the others even had to face a baton charge from the agents supposed to be guiding him.

While crossing into Iran, he saw an Afghan woman lying on the ground, dead.

Both Rasheed and Ahsan agree that they came face-to-face with death. They had to walk on foot through miles of forest and desert. Even if they found a pick-up truck to hitch a ride, it would already be packed with dozens of people. Shelters are often made in desert areas. And if the hunger, exhaustion and cold weather isn’t enough, the immigrants have to contend with abuse from the agents who wouldn’t think twice before giving them a beating.

Ahsan says he will never forget how he was surrounded by death from both sides. And he had decided to keep pressing forward no matter what, until he had to stop when one of his companions fell. Rasheed says that being surrounded people either killed or injured is something that will forever stay with him.

How hopeful immigrants meet agents

This is a question that many did not want to answer. Ahsan said he had met the agent in a hujra and had agreed to pay him Rs180,000 to get to Turkey via Quetta and Iran. There would be an additional fee to get to Europe.

Ajeerullah’s village in Landi Kotal
Ajeerullah’s village in Landi Kotal

Both Rasheed and Ahsan said that another agent would be in touch with them from Landi Kotal to Quetta, usually by phone. But beyond the Iran border, agents would appear in person. But even as the faces changed, the task remained the same: human smuggling.

What are the authorities doing

Muhammad Aftab Butt, who is posted as a deputy director investigation in Peshawar’s anti-human trafficking cell, says that typical victims often have similar characteristics. They are mostly 18 to 22 years, with little or no education and skills and are easily ensnared by agents.

Peshawar’s cell is working hard to combat the networks. In the current year alone, over 300 FIRs were registered and challans were submitted after completion of cases. Out of the 334 smugglers arrested, 254 have been sentenced by the courts. He added that 29 most wanted smugglers had been arrested this year.

Criminals at large

Aftab Butt thinks that a key reason why smugglers are not apprehended is because people back off from their statements.

In most cases, action is not possible unless someone files a complaint. The only other alternative is a raid to catch the culprits along with documentary evidence. But agents are woven into the community, they know who is vulnerable and who will make a good target. They usually lure victims in by manipulating them or by telling them that a lot of money is to be made abroad.

Referring to a case in Swabi, he said that an injured young man was arrested in Iran and brought back through his office. He added that such young men are labeled as victims of smuggling, instead of criminals so the young man was brought home after receiving medical attention.

But when the young man’s parents were asked to register a complaint, they went ahead immediately and pursued it all the way to court. But right on the day when the culprit’s bail was to be decided, they backed off.

Aftab Butt says that these situations tie the authorities’ hands, while the smugglers roam free looking for the next victim to exploit.

For the latest news, follow us on Twitter @Aaj_Urdu. We are also on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa





migrant workers

landi kotal