Human Trafficking through U.S exchange programs. BY: Syed Fawad Ali Shah

Human Trafficking through U.S exchange programs.

 BY: Syed Fawad Ali Shah

Syed Fawad Ali Shah

There has been news regarding irregularities and malpractices in the U.S Embassy’s different exchange programs. Every year U.S government invites people from different walks of life all across the world including Pakistan under its Cultural Exchange programs, International Visit Leadership programs (IVLP) and other such programs. The basic aim is to foster people to people contact and enlighten Pakistani people of the American system and its values. But in recent years several irregularities and malpractices have been noticed in this process. The sources have pointed out that those U.S embassy officials who hail from Pakistani origin are mainly involved in it. Since U.S immigration laws are getting tighter day by day so it’s very mammoth task to get political asylum there. So certain journalists who either have some issues with their jobs or who are not satisfied with their living standards try to get inroads into the Pakistani origin staff of U.S embassy and its consulates in different cities. For this purpose they pay huge sums as illegal gratification to such embassy staff. With their connivance these journalists get themselves nominated by the embassy for such programs. After reach USA they avoid to return to return to Pakistan on one pretext or other. They either apply for asylum there or try to enter Canada with the help of a human trafficking mafia active or U.S-Canada border. After entering Canada they immediately apply for asylum there. Since Canadian immigration laws are friendly so they easily get resettled there. Interestingly there is no strict scrutiny process while choosing names for such U.S programs as no security verification is carried out or Pakistan Press Information Ministry, provincial information departments, home departments or security are consulted to get a clear picture of any aspirant. Even no proper surety bonds are executed by the aspirants who can be enforceable by law. It has been learnt that in U.S. Embassy Islamabad and its consulate at Peshawar have recruited such staff including a female who were previously associated with journalism as their profession. These staff members are well conversant with different working journalists. (Their names and details are available with the author). By taking advantage of their employment in embassy they demand handsome amounts from the aspiring journalists for getting their names selected for U.S exchange programs. But this whole process is carried out in a very discrete and covert manner. Their White American bosses are totally ignorant of this illegal scheme of affairs. This Pakistani staff either uses third persons for handling the gratification money or they use WhatsApp, IMO and other popular messaging apps which involve end-to-end encryption system. Another Modus operandi is that of getting bribe money through Money Laundering (Hundi Hawala). Up till now five journalists from Peshawar who were sent on U.S exchange Programs but they never returned back. Two of them have reached Canada with the help of human trafficking mafia there. The rest three are still residing in America till now. If US government refuses their asylum applications then they will also switch over to Canada. Sources have pointed out a gang of human traffickers who also are of Pakistani origin who facilitate such illegal immigrants in getting their desired goals. These human traffickers use big vehicles or cargo trucks to get them smuggled to Canada in lieu of huge sums. (The names and details of such human traffickers are also available with the author). Although no allegations regarding involvement of the American staff has been surfaced in this human trafficking in the garb of US Exchange Programs but still their blind faith in their Pakistani origin subordinates have raised some serious questions over the entire process. Because this whole dirty game is being played in a very technical manner. This whole situation is not only bringing a bad name for US government and its embassy at Islamabad but also has created unrest amongst the Pakistani journalist community. This is also damaging the image of Pakistan in the world as it depicts that this is country is no more safe for journalists to work. The author tried his level best to get the version of U.S Ambassador Mr. Paul W Jones and its consular General Mr. Sebron CB Tony but could not succeed. Their version can be published later if they like so. The sources claim that due to tightening censorship on media, everyday expulsion of staff by different media houses and growing threats from different quarters have given rise to this trend of journalists going to USA through such means. The US government is urged to take extra precautions while selecting candidates for such exchange programs. They should also keep a vigilant eye on their Pakistani staff whether they are doing such things which are not permitted by their job description. The USA is rightly called the land of opportunities but it should not become a hub of human traffickers who play with human lives. If such elements are allowed to flourish with the connivance of the US government functionaries then it will badly damage the anti human trafficking initiatives being carried out by the US administration itself.