Pakistan Appoints Investigative Committee to Scrutinize Migrant Tragedy off Greek Coast

Pakistan Appoints Investigative Committee to Scrutinize Migrant Tragedy off Greek Coast

In the aftermath of the harrowing migrant vessel disaster off the coast of Greece last week, Pakistani Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, has instigated a high-level probe to examine the incident. To mark the catastrophe, a National Day of Mourning has been observed today, offering respect to the lives tragically lost in the incident. 

The specially assembled four-member committee, according to Sunday’s official government announcements, will assess the discrepancies and failures of the Pakistani legal and law enforcement systems which seemingly led to such a large number of individuals becoming vulnerable to human trafficking. 

The catastrophe unfolded when a boat sank approximately 80 kilometers from the southern Greek town of Pylos last Wednesday. The grim narrative that is developing suggests that more than 300 Pakistani lives may have been lost, with hopes of locating further survivors fading. 

Greek authorities reported that among the passengers, 27 Pakistanis died in the event and 12 survived. To date, Greek services have recovered 104 survivors and 78 bodies. 

The majority of the boat’s occupants hailed from Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan, according to official sources. These sources further suggest that the death toll could be devastating, potentially reaching into hundreds, considering the vessel, ill-prepared for such a journey, was overloaded with up to 750 passengers. 

Survivor testimonies appearing in a prominent UK newspaper detail horrifying circumstances aboard the ship, where women and children were forced into the hold, and individuals of certain nationalities were subjected to the most perilous locations onboard. Reports suggest that Pakistani nationals were among those forced below deck, while other nationalities remained on the upper deck, significantly increasing their chances of survival. 

Additional disturbing revelations suggest that women and children were effectively confined in the hold, presumably for “protection,” and that those seeking fresh water or attempting to escape were met with mistreatment. Notably, it is feared no women or children survived the calamity. 

Early estimates indicate that about 400 of the passengers were Pakistani. Pakistani media have reported that at least 298 Pakistani nationals perished in the event, with 135 of them originating from the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). 

Further testimonies have unveiled that the vessel’s engine failed several days before the sinking. One migrant told Greek authorities that about 700 people were on board, and the engine broke down after three days of sailing. 

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The assertion that Greek coastguards inadvertently caused the vessel to capsize in the early hours of Wednesday by attaching a rope has been denied by Greek officials, although a rope was confirmed to have been used with the intention of stabilizing the vessel. 

The investigative committee, under the leadership of National Police Bureau (NPB) Director General Ehsan Sadiq, has been mandated to submit a report on the disaster within a week. The team, which includes Foreign Ministry Additional Secretary Javed Umrani, Deputy Inspector General for Poonch Region of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Sardar Zaheer Ahmed, and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Joint Secretary Faisal Chaudhry, will be examining the legal and enforcement deficiencies that left the lives of so many at risk. 

The committee is also expected to review similar previous incidents and the responses to them, as well as examine the existing legal framework and international coordination efforts to prevent and combat human smuggling. The team will formulate both short and long-term recommendations, including proposals for new legislation, enforcement methods, awareness campaigns, and improvements in national and international cooperation for the eradication of human trafficking. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz expressed his condolences to the bereaved families in a separate statement. He declared Monday a National Day of Mourning, and in recognition of the tragedy, the national flag was flown at half-mast. 

Maryam Nawaz, Senior Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), supported the Prime Minister’s observance of the Day of Mourning and expressed her deepest sympathies to those affected by the tragedy. 

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