Sunday July 14, 2024

Court dismisses Sarim Burney’s bail plea in child trafficking case

By Yousuf Katpar
June 12, 2024
Social worker Sarim Burney is seen standing while being presented before the city court on June 6, 2024. — Screengrab via YouTube/Geo News Live
Social worker Sarim Burney is seen standing while being presented before the city court on June 6, 2024. — Screengrab via YouTube/Geo News Live

A court on Tuesday dismissed the bail application of social worker Sarim Burney in a case pertaining to the trafficking of children by way of adoption.

Burney, who was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency upon his arrival at Karachi airport on June 6, moved an application through his lawyers before Judicial Magistrate (East) Khalique Zaman, seeking post-arrest bail.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the magistrate ruled that the material collected by the prosecution was sufficient to provide reasonable grounds for believing that prima facie the case exists against the accused and therefore he does not deserve the concession of bail.

"The accused seems to be desperate, hardened criminal and he is running organised criminal group of human trafficking," the magistrate observed. “He used to purchase minors from the persons and sold them out to the foreigners against the consideration of huge amount. The accused has admitted in his statement that his Trust has received $3,000 from the adoptive parents. The accused with collusion of other persons used to file G&W application for getting guardianship certificate from the court by way of mis-declaration, misrepresentation and concealment of facts from the court."

He noted that the offence seems to be very serious in nature as it involves human trafficking. He added that the accused is a very influential person who may use his influence on the victim and the witnesses, with the likelihood of approaching or attempting to approach them. There is also the possibility of tampering with the evidence and obstructing or attempting to obstruct the due course of justice, he said.

Burney's legal team, including Amir Nawaz Warraich, Ejaz Khattak, and Muhammad Nawaz Dahri, argued that the social worker was innocent and had been falsely implicated in the case. They contended that he had no knowledge about the minors in question, as he was the chairman of the Sarim Burney Trust that managed various departments, including adoption, job distribution, and education.

The counsel said that the case does not fall within the prohibitory clauses and sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act 2018 do not apply, as the necessary requirements of these sections are not met. They said no force, coercion, threats, or physical restraint occurred with the victim. The minor girl, Haya, was brought to the Trust by Ayaz Khan and subsequently handed over to Hira Chottani after completing the formalities, they added.

The counsel said the adoptive parent, Hira Chottani, resides in Karachi, and her statement had not been recorded by the investigation officer and admitted that the Trust received $3,000 as fee for the legal counsel and not for the purpose of selling out the minor.

The investigation officer stated that the children were taken from their biological parents, but the guardianship application falsely claimed that the children were abandoned and found outside the Trust's gate. The names of the children were changed, and the court was misled as well. The victim, Haya, has a biological mother, Afsheen, who sold the girl to Bushra through Madiha for Rs350,000. Bushra then sold Haya to the Trust for an unspecified amount.

The IO stated that the organisation further sold out the minor against $3,000 to Hira, who changed the parentage of the minor and named her as Haya Yasir Noorwala. The acutal name of the minor was Muntaha, he said, adding that that two other minors, named Jannat, 8, and Fatima, 6, had heen handed over to Sobia in a similar way as the Trust obtained $3,000 for both minors. Their parentage and names were also changed as Zahra Fatima and Sarah Fatima, he said.

The FIA prosecutor argued that the offender deliberately and intentionally concealed facts from the courts. Afsheen, the mother of the minor Haya, implicated the accused in her statement, he said.

The prosecutor further mentioned that the case was initiated on a complaint of the US embassy, ruling out any enmity or malafide intention on the agency's part. He stated that Burney was a very influential person, and if released on bail, he may use his influence to obstruct or attempt to obstruct the due course of justice or tamper with the evidence.