The boat catastrophe off Greece, which has been dubbed the biggest migrant boat accident in the Mediterranean Sea, raises important considerations. 400, or more than half, of the 750 unlucky passengers were Pakistanis, and just 12 of them had a second shot at life.
The Pakistani media has maintained its focus over the last several days and emphasized how its citizens were treated the worst out of all the travelers. People “didn’t drown, but were purposely made to drown by the Greek coastguards,” they claim.
While it may be true that there would have been more survivors if the aid had arrived sooner, this claim illustrates a major misconception held by the Pakistani elite, namely the notion that their crisis is everyone’s problem. Additionally, it demonstrates their lack of accountability for their errors.
Why the Greeks weren’t more helpful should not be the topic; rather, what is driving Pakistanis, especially religious and ethnic minorities, to leave the nation in violation of the law in search of a better life at such a high cost?
Minorities from Pakistan who could summon up enough money have been migrating to the UK, Australia, and the rest of Europe since the 1960s. Most of them came from Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Jammu-Kashmir (PoJK), two downtrodden nations.
The government took over their sources of income and gradually degraded the status of those who were unable to depart to that of invalids. They received criticism from others and were ostracized by the upright society.
So it comes as no surprise that despite being aware of the risks, these desperate individuals flee Pakistan illegally.
There are accounts of people who have attempted to leave Pakistan more than six times; some have had all of their valuables and money taken by the border security of Iran and Pakistan; others are incarcerated in Libya and Iran; still others are kidnapped and sold as slaves; and the remainder pass away as collateral damage for the organ trade market.
Some persons can only leave the nation in this manner because of their negative reputation in higher levels as a result of their government criticism. The only way to survive is to disappear without being seen.
At least 21 of the passengers aboard the boat were from Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), which has been clamoring for independence from Pakistan’s oppressive control. The death toll reveals why. They have had their wealth and land taken from them, and in their own country, they have been reduced to the condition of slaves. Anyone who protests the law will suffer a terrible outcome.
Locals claim that 22 young people from PoJK’s Bandali hamlet went aboard this boat. Sadly, this isn’t even a community where young people often leave. The Kotli area of PoJK is where thousands of people annually flee illegally. One can only image how many people there would be if 22 individuals were from Bandali alone, rather than the whole PoJK.
The other group of persons determined to leave Pakistan for a second shot at life includes religious and ethnic minorities including Shi’as, Ahmadiyas, tribal Baloch, Hazaras, etc. Since the founding of the state, they have been subjected to racism and discrimination and regarded as second-class citizens.
The tragic tale of Shahida Raza, a former Pakistani female hockey player who perished in a similar boat tragedy in Italy earlier this year, is heartbreaking. Because the Pakistani government removed financial aid from her when she had to pay her son’s medical costs, a Hazara Shi’ite woman from the mountains of the troubled and overlooked Balochistan perished by herself in a box in the middle of nowhere.
In Pakistan, such is the cost of being a minority. Her athletic prowess in Pakistan was insufficient to ensure her survival.
The government has detained a dozen agents who extorted large sums of money from people and painted pictures of better life for them in order to quickly dispose of the case and calm the widespread agitation against such illegal migration and lack of vigilance by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency.
In addition to the agents who facilitate it, human trafficking also includes different levels of government and military personnel. Why doesn’t the Pakistani government want to descend to the pyramid’s foundation? And why don’t they look into earlier illegal immigration?
They must have a rationale for not stirring the pot too much should it implicate important military and political figures. The incident brings to light the tragedy of Pakistan’s forgotten class, which is guided by rich rulers who are ruthless in their self-serving motives and morally bankrupt. This heat will soon dissipate, and the purported crackdown will be lessened.
The sun will set on the unfortunate victims of the boat disaster while elite patronage carries on with their pursuit of illicit wealth and moves on to the next newsworthy topic.