THANKS to the sustained efforts of activists and health professionals, the illegal organ transplantation trade has come down greatly in Pakistan after this deplorable practice was criminalised in 2007. However, as reports of a gang busted recently in Rawalpindi show, the racket is still continuing on a smaller scale, as unscrupulous individuals seek to harvest the organs of the poor and the desperate in order to make unholy profits. As reported in this paper, the gang was busted after law enforcers searched a car in the garrison city’s Bahria Town area in which a victim was being transported. Investigations revealed that criminals had harvested the indebted brick kiln worker’s kidney after promising to help him address his financial woes. The man was given an injection and after regaining consciousness, he found he was missing a kidney. The criminals reportedly paid the victim’s brother Rs200,000 for his organ, while the racketeers usually charge ‘beneficiaries’ of these illegal transplants — usually moneyed Arabs — around Rs5m. The procedure had been carried out in a private residence.
The authorities need to remain vigilant to bust more such networks involved in the illegal organ trade. While most of these activities were carried out in Punjab, criminals had shifted their activities to KP and AJK to avoid detection. That is why law enforcement and health authorities of all federating units need to work together to bust the rackets. Monitoring needs to be stepped up, so that crooked doctors and agents involved in this evil trade can be prosecuted. This will need to be prioritised, as in these times of economic misery, malign actors will increasingly prey upon the vulnerable to part with their organs for paltry sums. Unfortunately, cases against perpetrators are not properly pursued, as dishonest doctors have been known to escape the legal dragnet and resume their activities. And while cracking down on the illicit organ trade, ethical transplantation and deceased organ donation must be promoted.