LAHORE -  At first it was unclear to me as to whose picture it was on WhatsApp message. I was trying to figure it out when the cell phone bell rang. It all became clear to me because the man at the other end was demanding Rs360,000, otherwise he would amputate the hand and feet of my nephew Shahid Ali and his friend Noubahar. It was torture photo of my nephew. Both had gone to Turkey for employment.

Muhammad Ali Azad, resident of Hanjarwal, Lahore, told the FIA officials about how the human traffickers were robbing him. “You have so far deposited only Rs175,000 and if you do not arrange Rs350,000 more we will amputate their hands and feet. Then they made me hear the screams of my nephew who was being tortured,” leader of the human traffickers gang Haider Shah’s voice boomed on the phone. He was calling from Turkey.

Ali moved an application to Director FIA against the human smugglers who had taken his nephew and his friend to Turkey and now were demanding ransom money. The victims had been trapped by one Yasin (operating with Haider from Turkey) and his wife Taj Bibi, a resident of Sheikhupura. They convinced Shahid and Noubahar to go to Turkey promising lucrative jobs there. After passage of six weeks the call for ransom came. Haider Shah, who is operating a human smuggling ring from Turkey, his brother Saqlain Shah from Sheikhupura, Muhammad Nawaz and Nazir from Lahore and one Rana have been identified as the accused.

“Due to fear of torture I handed over Rs. 175,000 and a newly purchased motorcycle to Taj Bibi. After two days accused Yasin called from Turkey. “You have deposited amount for safety of one person. Now deposit Rs350,000 if you want to keep the other person safe as well and to ensure safety of my nephew. I implored him to have some mercy on us as we could not arrange such a huge amount. Then he told me to arrange Rs200,000 instead,” Ali said in his application. Saqlain Shah put pressure on applicant and his family members through phone calls and demanded agreed amount of Rs200,000. Haider Shah called from Turkey and demanded that Ali should deposit the said amount in bank account, 0330233105668 of his real brother Saqlain Shah.

FIA Anti Human Trafficking Cell the other day arrested two members of the gang allegedly involved in human trafficking cum kidnapping for ransom and torturing of their victims.

Syed Saqlain Ali and Nawaz were arrested from Sheikhupura when they were receiving ransom money from victim’s family members.

The accused confessed to illegal detention of over 100 such young people who were being tortured to seek ransom from their family members.

Investigation officer Inspector Yousaf told The Nation yesterday that the accused were hardened criminals. “They have confessed to their crime. But the exact number of victims would be established in the investigation.

“We have obtained physical remand of the accused from a local court for four days. Hopefully they will make more revelations,” Yousaf said.

“Accused are in trafficking business for the last two to three years but deportees or affected people did not report them perhaps due to fear.

FIA has recovered lists of people sent abroad by the gang from custody of the accused.

Investigator said the accused have confessed to five victims whose families they were negotiating with for ransom money.