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Sunday June 23, 2024

Sarim Burney remanded in FIA custody in human trafficking case

By Yousuf Katpar
June 07, 2024
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials are escorting arrested Social activist and entrepreneur Sarim Burney during a case hearing of involvement with human trafficking, at City Court premises in Karachi on June 6, 2024. — PPI
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials are escorting arrested Social activist and entrepreneur Sarim Burney during a case hearing of involvement with human trafficking, at City Court premises in Karachi on June 6, 2024. — PPI

A judicial magistrate on Thursday handed over social worker Sarim Burney to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on a two-day physical remand for questioning in a case pertaining to alleged trafficking of children to the US by way of adoption.

Investigation officer Bilal Ahmed produced Burney before Judicial Magistrate (East) Khaleequ Zaman, a day after his arrest from the Karachi airport. He stated that the custody of the accused is required to record his statement, recover the relevant documents and arrest absconding accused.

Burney’s lawyers Ijaz Khattak and Amir Nawaz Warraich opposed the FIA’s plea for physical remand and requested that he be remanded in judicial custody.

Khattak stated that his client was ready to provide all documents and his organisation will fully cooperate with the IO in the investigation of the case. He said that Burney was a respectable person whose services to the society were outstanding.

After hearing arguments, the magistrate observed that “the reasons submitted by the IO appears to be genuine and convincing” and remanded Burney in the custody of the FIA for two days. The magistrate directed the IO to record statements of witnesses as well as of accused.

The magistrate further directed the IO to recover the victims and produce the accused before the court on completion of his remand on June 8.

The FIA’s Anti-Human Trafficking Cell (AHTC) registered an FIR against Burney and others under sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly, inducing delivery of property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Sections 3 (trafficking in persons), 4 (aggravating circumstances) and 5 (abetment and criminal conspiracy) of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018.

According to the FIR, the agency launched an inquiry on receipt of a written complaint from the Consulate General of the United States of America, Karachi. against Sarim Burney Welfare Trust International.

It stated that the immigration team from the US Embassy Islamabad had visited the Trust’s office in July and November 2023. During the visit, the non-profit entity provided the guardianship documents of two children, Jannat and Fatima, aged six and four. Their names were changed to Zehra and Sarah in their guardianship documents. An affidavit on the Trust’s letter head signed on October 26, 2019, by an alleged father, Muhammad Wasif Shabbir, stated that his wife left the house two months ago and he relinquished both daughters to the Trust for handing them over to any interested family for adoption.

However, as per court record, both girls were abandoned and found outside the gate of the Trust that tried level best to locate their parents but couldn’t find them. “This corroborates the observations made by the Immigration Visa Unit staff in July that the Trust is willfully misleading courts and changing children’s names,” the FIA said.

“It appears in case of Sarah Fatima, Zehra Fatima and Haya Nasir Noorwala were relinquished by biological parents with a consent to hand over [them] to any interested family for an adoption, whereas court proceedings show that all three children were abandoned at the gate of Sarim Burney Welfare Trust Int’t,” IO Bilal claimed.

During the inquiry, he stated: “Mr. Sarim Burney and his associates namely Basalat Ali Khan, Humaira Naz and others in collusion with each other knowingly and willfully gave false information, made misdeclaration as well as concealment of the following facts before the Hon’ble Family Courts District East Karachi in the garb of illegal adoption/guardianship of three baby girls namely Baby Zehra Fatima, baby Sarah Fatima and baby Haya Nasir by using and providing fraudulent documents for the purpose of trafficking the above said baby girls to abroad by way of adoption/guardianship and wronfgful gain for themsevels.”

As per orphan certificates of the Trust signed by Humaira Naz, in-charge of shelter home, the IO said, the three girls in question were orphans who were found outside the gate of the Trust that tried level best to find their parents and that no person came forward to claim them, which is contrary to the facts.