Fuzzy boundaries: Caught between FIA and police

LAHORE: Hundreds of people cheated out of their hard-earned cash by fake travel operators are now made rolling stones between FIA and police as the question of who should handle their cases in terms of jurisdiction is adding to their woes, The Express Tribune has learnt.

In a latest development, Interior Minister Rehman Malik is understood to have stopped Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from taking any action against human traffickers, consultancy firms, promoters, travel and tour agencies accused of extorting money from people with the false promise of sending them abroad.

In compliance of the directive, the FIA headquarters have instructed subordinate offices that all those cases (of fraud) in which borders have not been crossed should be referred to the local police.

Interestingly, the local police are not authorised to take any legal action against those involved in this kind of racket as only FIA can take action under the existing Emigration Ordinance, 1979, sources said.

The latest instructions are seen as a kind of encouragement to the callous operators to continue preying on simple souls and robbing them of their cash.

With the new policy in force, more than 100 applications of people so defrauded are not being entertained by the FIA in Punjab alone.

Sources recalled that FIA headquarters had issued identical instructions through a letter on July 17, 2009 to zonal and circle offices countrywide to close pending inquiries and stop entertaining new applications against human traffickers, agents and consultancies.

Within four months of this directive, more than 500 inquiries were referred to the HQ from FIA’s Punjab office alone. Sometimes later, however, the HQ referred some of the cases back to the subordinate offices with the direction to take action against fraudsters.

The headquarters of premier law enforcement agency had then to revise the contents of its letter on November 13, 2009, which read: “Keeping in view the above position, the policy guidelines issued by above quoted letter dated July 17, 2009 are revised with the direction that all complaints constituting the offences under Emigration Ordinance, 1979, supported by authentic documents/affidavits may be entertained by the in-charge of concerned Anti Human Trafficking Circles (AHTCs) of FIA.

“However, no action shall be initiated on the complaints attracting application of section under 22(b) of the Emigration Ordinance without specific order of the zonal directors concerned. All previous instructions on the subjected may be treated as cancelled.”

According to a senior FIA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the orders issued on the direction of interior minister have no legal basis, and run contrary to the existing Pakistani laws.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2011.


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