Tuesday, October 27

Ten Afghan children smuggled into Pakistan to return home

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News the group had nothing to do with the case of the smuggled children
The children are in custody of the Afghan consulate and will be returned to their families next week
PESHAWAR: Ten Afghan children who were smuggled into Pakistan two months ago will be returned to their families next week, the refugees’ attaché at the Afghan consulate in Peshawar told Arab News on Saturday.

The children, who were brought into the country without any legal documentation, are now in custody of the Afghan consulate following a verdict given by the Peshawar High Court on Friday.

“All the children are with us and we will hand them over to the Afghan refugees department at the Torkham border next week,” attache Abdul Hameed Jalili said.

“In light of the court ruling, we will complete all formalities and submit a report to the court within the given timeframe,” he said.

The court has asked for a detailed inquiry report in 15 days, and asked for photo evidence of the children being handed over to their parents.

All ten children are aged between nine and twelve years old.

Cases of child smuggling from Afghanistan to Pakistan have made the news before, with the children brought into the country mostly to be enrolled in Pakistani seminaries called madrassas– religious schools that are blamed for the radicalization of youngsters but which remain the only education available to millions of poor children.

In 2017, an AP report quoted an Afghan counterterrorism official, who said Afghan intelligence had identified dozens of madrassas in Pakistan where it suspected future generations of Taliban were being trained.

But on Saturday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News in an audio note that the Taliban had nothing to do with the case.

“Taliban have no involvement in this case. It is just propaganda against the Islamic Emirate,” he said.

Mujahid added that most Afghan refugees in Pakistan had lived in Pakistan for four decades and would habitually send their children to seminaries for an Islamic education.

The case of the Afghan children came to light after a scuffle broke out between two seminaries arguing for enrolment of the children in their respective institutions in the small town of Ghulam Ullah Badakhshi in Akorra Khatta on the outskirts of Nowshera.

The children were brought to the town from Afghanistan by a local religious leader called Izatullah, who has been arrested by police following the court’s orders alongside several others.

“Basically the issue surfaced when a scuffle erupted between two schools of thought over the custody of the children, prompting police to take the case to the court. It seems that the children were trafficked into Pakistan without the consent or knowledge of their parents,” Additional Advocate General Qaiser Ali Shah told Arab News.

Police has apprehended three other religious leaders for interrogation including Izatullah, Shah added.

Rasheed Ahmad Mohmand, an advocate of the PHC who was witness to the court proceedings told Arab News that a special translator who spoke Persian was called into court to communicate with the children– who spoke neither Pashto nor Urdu, but an Afghani Persian dialect called Dari.

The children told the translator they had come to Pakistan to study and didn’t want to go back to Afghanistan or meet their parents. The translator told the court the children seemed to be brainwashed because they gave all their answers in unison, according to Mohmand.

Mohmand said Izatullah told the court he had brought the children to Pakistan for a religious education. They were brought in via Chaman border and all of them belonged to the Kuf Ab district of Badakhshan province.

“The court ruled that this is human smuggling, ordering the police to nab Izatullah and other religious leaders of the seminary and investigate the matter thoroughly about how the children were brought into and lived in Pakistan without legal documents,” Mohmand said.

Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth also ordered police to conduct investigations about the presence of other Afghan children enrolled in Pakistani madrassas illegally.

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