LAHORE - The FIA’s Anti Human Trafficking Cell (AHTC) could arrest only three out of 33 most wanted human traffickers during the year 2015, statistics issued by the agency revealed.

A list issued by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headquarters, Islamabad, shows that there were 63 most wanted human traffickers in the country, out of whom 33 fall in the jurisdiction of FIA Punjab Lahore.

As per statistics, FIA Lahore could finalise 1768 enquiries and 1606 cases. Some 505 proclaimed offenders and 62 absconders were arrested during January to December 2015.

An FIA officer said that AHTC submitted 1523 challans in court and recovered more than Rs14 million in different cases.

As many as 601 accused were convicted by court while FIA conducted 55 raids during the year.

However, the most wanted traffickers belonging to different districts of Punjab including Gujrat, Lahore, Gujrawala, Sialkot, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, are yet to be arrested.

An investigator, seeking anonymity, said: “Those traffickers we arrested during the year 2015 have gone back to their heinous business after getting bails from court.”

He added there were insufficient laws to curb human smuggling and trafficking from the country. “There are only two clauses of Immigration Ordinance 1979 including section 17 and 22. Though both are non-compoundable and non-bailable, since there was provision in the law to impose fine or imprisonment, so in the eyes of law these do not fall in the prohibitory clauses,” said the officer.

Under prohibitory clause accused cannot be granted bail by one year, according to legal experts.

An FIA deputy director recalled that in the past, judges like Munir Ahmad Khan used to consider such clauses as prohibitory ones but now present judges do not take them like that.

According to another officer in the agency, in more than 95 cases the accused and applicants reconcile after give and take. “Few days back participants of a workshop on human trafficking held in Lahore believed that in most of the cases complainants after getting back their looted money do not want to follow the case,” he told The Nation while seeking anonymity.

This favours the accused that get benefit of the situation and the court after imposing fine grant bail or end the case, he added.

The federal agency has meagre resources to arrest such heinous criminals who are looting public with both hands. As per United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), upper Punjab is the main hub of human smuggling.

Well placed sources said that FIA is reluctant to lay hands on some influential human smugglers who were part of Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association (POEPA).

Couple of months back when Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan directed FIA to start crackdown against human smugglers accompanied with Rangers, FIA started conducting raids but POEPA staged protest demonstrations and forced the agency to change its earlier strategy. When contacted, FIA spokesman Khawja Hammad said that three most wanted were arrested by FIA AHTC Lahore while 12 were also arrested by AHTC Gujranwala and Multan.