Families in Pakistan mourn drug mules beheaded in Saudi

By AFP
Published: December 4, 2014
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In this photograph taken on  December 2, 2014, the father of Mohammad Irfan, a Pakistani national who was sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia, Haji Abdul Haq, poses with a picture of his son in Sargodha. PHOTO: AFP

In this photograph taken on December 2, 2014, the father of Mohammad Irfan, a Pakistani national who was sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia, Haji Abdul Haq, poses with a picture of his son in Sargodha. PHOTO: AFP

SARGODHA: Every morning, Haji Abdul Haq wakes up wondering whether his son has been beheaded. Not by the Taliban, al Qaeda or the Islamic State group, but by the Saudi Arabian government.

Haq’s son is on death row in the kingdom, waiting for his name to be added to the growing roll of Pakistanis executed this year by the Saudis for heroin smuggling.

Saudi Arabia has meted out the gruesome fate to 74 people in 2014, 15 of them Pakistanis convicted of drug smuggling.

Families and rights campaigners complain their trials are opaque and unfair, and accuse the Pakistani government of doing nothing to help its citizens, afraid of offending an important and hugely wealthy ally.

Haq’s son Mohammad Irfan, 27, awaits his death in the Saudi prison of al Ha’ir, thousands of miles from the orange groves and wheatfields of his native Punjab, where his father told AFP his story.

Four years ago, Haq said, two men came and said that for $2,000 they would get Irfan plane tickets and a visa for the Gulf – for many poor Pakistanis, a passport to a better life.

Irfan sold his rickshaw and wife’s jewels and his tea-seller father made up the rest of the money.

The two men then took Irfan to Karachi – a key transit point for heroin from Afghanistan. But in Karachi, things turned sour, Haq says.

“The two men changed and told him they would kill him unless he did what they wanted,” Haq told AFP.

“After that they forced capsules of heroin into his anus.”

Irfan was put on a flight to Saudi Arabia by his new masters. On arrival in Riyadh he was stopped by customs officers and after a brisk trial, condemned to death.

Pakistan is full of stories about drug mules, but they are little discussed in public and get little sympathy.

One official told AFP that “in most of the cases the sentence or the punishment is justified.”

Rights group Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia uses the death penalty disproportionately against foreigners, particularly those from South Asia. Since 1985 around half of 2,000 people executed in the kingdom have been foreigners.

The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a human rights law firm, has begun trying to get Islamabad to defend them.

“These prisoners are very poor men who have been sold a chance to escape and make something of their lives,” Sohail Yafat, a JPP investigator, told AFP.

Almost half of Afghanistan’s heroin production comes through Pakistan on its way to Europe and Asia.

But in recent years the Gulf has become an increasingly important market, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Seizures of the drug in Saudi Arabia have exploded, from just one kilo (2.2 lbs) a year in the early 2000s to 41 kilos in 2008 and 111 in 2011, according to data given by the Saudis to the UN.

In August and September alone, nearly 400 people, including nearly 300 foreigners, were arrested for possessing or dealing heroin, according to the Saudi government.

Riyadh says it wants to protect Saudi society from the scourge of heroin, but rights groups are highly critical of its judicial system.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch says the absence of a penal code in Saudi Arabia makes it particularly arbitrary.

“There is no law that defines what is and is not a crime – it is really up to the judge to decide what is a crime and what level of evidence is required to establish that a crime occurred,” she told AFP.

The prisoners and their families also criticise the government for sacrificing its own citizens for the sake of good relations with an ally.

Saudi Arabia supplies oil and financial aid to Pakistan, while Pakistan helps with military assistance, according to analysts.

“In the perspective of the government, the relations with Saudi Arabia are too important, too critical, to be sacrificed for individuals who, in the mind of the state, are responsible” for their acts, said analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.

Haji Abdul Haq has written to numerous Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, urging them to lobby the Saudis on behalf of his son.

“The drugs mafia, it’s like a tree – the Saudis are cutting the branches but the trunk and the roots are still there,” said Haq, sitting with Irfan’s two daughters. One of the girls has never seen her father.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • saad saeed
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:06AM

    Sad

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  • Raghu
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:26AM

    It is great courage of Saudi Arabia to give death sentence to the traffickers. Do the traffickers know how many thousands of lives they will take by providing this poison to them. Many will not agree with me but this harsh punishment is the reason why there is reduced crime rate in Gulf states. And where are Human rights group sleeping when Punjab police is assaulting the Blind people. Have they also gone blind?

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  • Old Ravian
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:29AM

    “In the perspective of the government, the relations with Saudi Arabia are too important, too critical”. Pakistani strategists continue to chase illusions. What have they achieved? more drug mules willing to transport drugs knowing fully well their fate in case caught. There is a complete racket of drug pushers through out Pakistan, including government officials, businessmen and politicians, all protecting each other.

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  • Kamran
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:39AM

    Everyone knows that if a person is caught taking drugs into Saudi Arabia you are almost certain to get the death penalty. If some forced drugs up his anus as it states in the article, they did not follow him on to the plane after the security point. He could have informed any officer at KHI and they would have assisted him. I do feel for people who want a better life but they need to take some minimal responsibility for their own actions that lead to these types on tragic situations.

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  • Faisal
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:41AM

    I lived in Karachi, in my area there was a young and energetic boy. He was hard working boy and used to wash cars and make an income, until I noticed that he started taking drugs, his eyes went deep inside, his body was sucked out, he used to do very less work. He used to fight with those who tried to stop him. Then I would see him just smoking Charas and sitting on the road side with dirty hair and clothes doing nothing. Then he started begging from the near by hotel for the drugs, started stealing stuff from by passers. Eventually, the last time I saw him was that his one arm was dislocated or I would say amputated. He was is a very very horrible condition and he dint know what he was doing. What I saw was a precious life lost and I demand capital punishment for the Producer and trafficker of these drugs. I don’t know how many such young lives have been lost. The punishment must be implemented in Pakistan as well.

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  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)
    Dec 4, 2014 - 12:13PM

    In the perspective of the government, the relations with Saudi Arabia are too important, too critical, to be sacrificed for individuals who, in the mind of the state, are responsible” for their acts, said analyst Ayesha Siddiqa. This henious crime can only be stopped if such punishment is meted out and acts as a Deterrent for others.

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  • Rizkhan
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:06PM

    Pakistani useless govt should speak to Saudi govt or else start tit for tat. Enough is enough. They cant kill innocent people who simply travel for better income but are fooled by their agents.

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  • Patriotic Pakistani
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:06PM

    I really like what Saudia Arabia is doing for such crime..

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  • musawer
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:10PM

    There’s a HUGE difference between stupidity and innocence,
    Huge difference between being ambitious and being greedy,

    They shoved capsules of heroin in his anus,
    I wish someone can shove some sense in their skull.

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  • Stranger
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:41PM

    Lets look at the eye of the storm. Both sides of theborder why do people go and indulge in such things like being a mule … Bec of want of money / other resources at home . So why not enrich their lives like give them edu .. jobs … med facilities .. then they need not go looking for ‘jobs’ as mules … They were driven by circumstances so why not strenghten their circumstances.

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  • goggi (Lahore)
    Dec 4, 2014 - 2:19PM

    The inhuman, barbaric and hate-filled ideology of this country has similarly polluted the humanity as its dirty oil!
    I detest this country and its retarded IQ level sword culture!!!

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  • living in riyadh
    Dec 4, 2014 - 2:24PM

    last time when I boarded plane to Riyadh, all passengers were checked more than once. even they checked the hand carry on doorstep of plane for all passengers. everyone knows smuggling drugs carry death penalty in Saudi Arabia. he looks close to being a smuggler than drug mule as he knew wht he is doing.

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  • irfan naik
    Dec 4, 2014 - 2:28PM

    Salam our govt take a final decision and say Saudi govt we cannoy take adual behavior pakistani and west countries.

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  • Timorlane
    Dec 4, 2014 - 3:31PM

    The arab rulers are friends of Pakistani corrupt ruling class and not friends of common Pakistanis whose heads they gladly sever.
    Ever heard any white guy/woman from US, EU, Australia getting punished in these sheikdoms???

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  • jock
    Dec 4, 2014 - 4:06PM

    @goggi (Lahore):
    Do you seek a Saudi royal pardon for mules here? The same pardon that you and your type seek for cricketers that disgrace your national flag; only because they play too well?
    Are you even for real?Recommend

  • Citizen26
    Dec 4, 2014 - 4:13PM

    Saudis use drug laws only against South Asians. If a European or American citizen is caught with possession of drugs then they are sent back to their own countries and neither impriosined.
    I don’t understand that if Pakistan provides Saudis with military training and in return we get oil and finanicial aid then whats the issue in raising this biased and discriminatory behaviour to Saudi authorities. If they stop our oil, we can stop providing their military any training. And then Saudis already face threat from Yemen, Iraq and Iran. They will be on a back foot. Lesson to be learnt: No one just gives you respect, you earn respect.

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  • Milind
    Dec 4, 2014 - 7:35PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd) – “This henious crime can only be stopped if such punishment is meted out and acts as a Deterrent for others”

    Typical “Saudis can’t do anything wrong” servile attitude. The punishment should be meted to only the guilty. Not someone who has been wrongly involved or blamed or poor Pakistanis.

    Any why don’t the Saudis punish their royals (Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan) who has used his diplomatic immunity to smuggle tons of cocaine from Colombia in the past?

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  • jock
    Dec 4, 2014 - 8:16PM

    @Milind:
    “This henious crime can only be stopped if such punishment is meted out and acts as a Deterrent for others”

    Only an Indian will dig out something wrong in this statement. Typical, really.

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  • Farhan
    Dec 4, 2014 - 8:46PM

    Has ever Saudis sentenced any white people? Shame on our government for being unable to at least ensure free and fair trial for the victims in Suadi Arabia.

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  • MA
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:39PM

    If guns can be legal and regulated, why not drugs?? The ones who do drugs know very well that those can kill them.

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  • Dec 5, 2014 - 7:47AM

    If there is no demand, there is no supply. How many Saudis have been punished for smoking heroin?

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  • Pankaj
    Dec 5, 2014 - 4:23PM

    @jock:
    @googi and @others supporting this punishment :
    is this the first time this sentence was awarded ? if not , why have earlier beheadings not worded as detterent for this crime ?

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  • bahadur khan
    Dec 5, 2014 - 5:02PM

    It is most unfortunate. many weaker sections in india have kept land, house, gold in collateral for gulf visa, they go there find things are not rosy. as promised. Loose their visa, are imprisoned on various charges. Family in india is appealing for release , not knowing the issue. it is a vicious cycle.

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