• 29 Aug - 04 Sep, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

My brother Jamal Din was only 19 years of age, when I handed him over to Agent Bashir Khan for sending him to Greece. Bashir Khan had ensured me and two dozen other people that all the arrangements have been made. All the young men will be hidden in a container which will be loaded in a merchant ship. Appropriate people at the loading dock including custom authorities have been paid hefty amount for this task. Then, there were two trustworthy people in the ship crew. Their responsibility was to let these boys out and keep them hidden at some suitable place in the ship. A merchant ship is huge in size with a very few staff. There were plenty of places to keep these boys out of sight for three weeks. Additional food was already stacked. Once docked at the Athens port in Greece, these boys will be smuggled out of the ship through a boat for which all arrangements had already been made. These were the details given to us by Bashir Khan. Every one of us had paid him five lac rupees and we were pretty sure that he has made fool proof arrangements.

Something did go wrong. We were at ease for one month as Bashir Khan had told us that the ship will take three weeks to reach Greece as it had few intermediate stops as well. After docking at Athens, the boys will be taken to an island where they will be kept for few days before transporting them to Athens in small groups. Honestly, I was too busy in my hostel job to visit personally to Bashir Khan’s office and get regular updates. Though, I had been calling him occasionally and he always gave me a positive report. A month passed since departure of the ship and Jamal had not yet contacted us. One Sunday morning, my father and mother told me to visit Bashir Khan’s office and talk personally to the main person in charge of the operation in Greece. I laughed at their silly instructions but started worrying a little bit. On my mother’s constant insistence, I called Bashir Khan’s number but it was switched off. It was almost 1 pm on Sunday and I knew that Bashir Khan had multiple numbers. I dialed all his numbers but in vain. Sunday was Bashir Khan’s busiest day of the week as most people visited him on their off day. His office was always open seven days a week. I took out the bike and drove to Bashir Khan’s office. It was almost twenty minutes ride. I was worried sick but I kept satisfying myself with different reasons to cool my nerves down. My anxiety kept constantly rising despite of my best efforts.

From a far distance, I could see many people standing outside Bashir Khan’s office. I had visited his office many times before with Jamal. His office was always filled with people mostly from up north. I had however, never seen so many people standing outside his office. I parked my bike and joined the group. In just few seconds, I learnt that Bashir Khan had been arrested for human trafficking. The last batch he sent in a merchant ship was intercepted by the Coast Guard authorities of Greece while they were being transferred in boats. The human traffickers from Greece tried to escape which resulted in exchange of fire. The incident was hushed up and the matter did not come into lime light. Ilyas Kashmiri found out through his contacts that many boys were killed. There was no news about the survivors.

I was too busy in my own work and I had stopped worrying about Jamal Din. He was my real brother but he was a pain in the neck. There was nobody at my home to supervise him and to discipline him. He had left studies and was wasting time with his street friends. I stopped giving him money and had also told my parents not to do so either. He would however, get money from mother and spend it on local intoxicant. I also found out that he had started using drugs. It was high time to take some action. Father and mother suggested that we should get him married but I had different plans for him. He always wanted to go abroad and earn a lot of money. I started collecting information and hence name of Bashir Khan was referred to me by a friend. I arranged the requisite money asked by Bashir Khan by getting a loan from bank. I also had to get a loan from few friends and from my hostel owner to arrange five lac rupees. Now Bashir Khan was in the police custody and there was no way out to find out about what had happened to all the boys in the ship.

I was quite hopeful that Jamal would have survived. There was no news about the incident on news. I exchanged numbers with relatives of other young men who were missing and came back home. I did not have guts to tell my parents as to what actually happened so I made up a story while coming back home. I told my parents that the entire group was arrested in Greece and that our government is trying to get them back. In the coming weeks, I along with other affected people approached a prominent person in Karachi who was renowned for handling such cases. After couple of months, he informed us that Greek authorities are totally quiet on this issue. Probably, the Greek Coast Guard had over reacted by firing on the boat carrying the smuggled young men. They did not want to confess to such an incident and get scolded by European Union. Greece was already on verge of losing its membership of EU and therefore, it was trying its level best not to indulge in any issue of human rights violations. We were also told that the survivors of the boat were shifted to different prisons in Greece. No further information was available about this case. Governments of both the countries had thought it was appropriate to remain silent.

More than five years passed and still there was no news about the boys who were illegally shipped to Greece. Bashir Khan was released on bail and had since disappeared from the scene. I had asked my sources in north to find Bashir Khan and just ask him about the contact person in Greece. After many years of my hectic search, I was finally told by one of my drugs provider that Bashir Khan has reappeared on the scene. He asked me a lot of money to give me present whereabouts of Bashir Khan, which I obliged. To my amusement, Bashir Khan was again active in Karachi doing the same old business. Only after three days, I was sitting across Bashir Khan in my safe house. He was tied to the pillar and his face was covered with blood. He had resisted his kidnapping last night from his new office in Gulbahar. I had sent my best men to bring Bashir Khan in one piece to me. Police from local station provided full support in this operation. The job was well done.

My face was covered. I did not want Bashir Khan to see me and then start his own streak of finding me and taking out his revenge. He belonged to the notorious area and also enjoyed patronage of many high ups. I sat across him and said, ‘Bashir Khan, I know you are a busy person so I will not waste your time. I am a busy person too. So, let’s cut the crap and come straight to the point.’ As I paused, he lifted his head up. I could see his red blood eyes. There was not even an iota of fear in those eyes. He had perhaps experienced worse than this before. Not losing confidence, I continued, ‘I only want to know one thing and then I will let you live…’ I did not even finish my sentence that I heard his roaring voice, ‘you should not let me live or you will regret it.’ Getting a little frustrated, I uttered my heart out, ‘I just want to know about your contact person in Greece.’ Bashir Khan started laughing. He kept laughing for over a minute and then smilingly said, ‘So, you are somehow related to someone I smuggled to Greece five years ago.’ I said nothing and kept looking in his fearless eyes. He looked around in the empty room and then mischievously said, ‘untie me and I will tell you.’ He then started laughing again.

Bashir Khan did not know that I was in no hurry. Already five years had passed and whatever had happened to those boys could not be undone now. My brother Jamal either died due to the firing of Coast Guard or he might have drowned or must be rotting in some jail. In either of the case, it was never too late. So, I left Bashir Khan and walked out of there. Before closing the door, I looked at his face. He seemed a little surprised.

My business continued as usual. I however, had started establishing some contacts in Greece. Mohsin Sufi still did not know about me. He was looking after my distribution network in Karachi. Ilyas Kashmiri was my most trusted man. He was the one who had kidnapped Bashir Khan and had brought him to me. I had assigned him the responsibility for safekeeping of Bashir Khan. Bashir Khan was kept tied to a heavy chain in the same room where I had met him for the first time. Ilyas Kashmiri had installed a camera in the room and I was able to see the rising frustration of Bashir Khan. He had thought that his men will get him released or I will let him go after a while but as I said before, I was in no hurry.

My contact in Greece was now fully active. He was a local Pakistan guy named Waqar Ali. He was illegally working in Greece for the past seven years. I found out about him from relatives of the missing boy who was still in touch with me. Waqar was the elder brother of a missing boy. He was also smuggled to Greece through a merchant ship by Bashir Khan. I tasked Waqar Ali to find out the contact person in Greece who works for Bashir Khan. Waqar Ali was initially very hesitant to cooperate with me as he himself was working there illegally yet he loved his missing brother too much. I ensured him that I will help his family financially if anything bad happened to him. To prove my point I even sent five lac rupees to his home telling them that Waqar has sent these. He received the news immediately and thanked me a lot.

The worst kind of punishment is living in isolation. Bashir Khan could not bear it for long. He probably thought that we will let him go after beating him up. He knew that we will keep him alive as long as he has the secret information which we need. Torture of isolation proved a little too much for this lion hearted man. It was only his fortieth day in my prison that he broke. He begged Ilyas Kashmiri that he wants to see me. I wanted him to suffer a little more so I went to see him three days after his first request. He was tied to the same place. Darkened blood stains and irregular outgrowth of hair on his face had turned him into a nightmare. Ilyas Kashmir was only giving him enough food to survive. Bashir Khan was looking like a freak. While sitting in front of him again after a month and half, it was my time to laugh, ‘I thought you will take much longer time before telling me the name.’ He lifted his face up. This time I saw his frustrated eyes. His voice was low and shaky, ‘Jack Alfred.’ I had heard him but I wanted to enjoy a little more, ‘What did you say?’ This time he shouted on top of his voice, ‘his name is Jack Alfred and he works in the Athens Port Authority.’

to be continued...