Pakistani security forces on Wednesday found 15 bullet-ridden bodies in the south-western part of the country, which is used by traffickers to smuggle migrants to Europe via Iran and Turkey, officials said.
The bodies were found in the mountainous region of Turbat in the province of Balochistan near the border of Iran, provincial Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti said.
All the victims hail from the central province of Punjab, a region from where many Pakistanis try to travel to Europe via land with the help of smugglers.
It was not immediately known whether the victims were on their way to Europe or came to Balochistan to seek employment locally, police official Gul Rehman told dpa, adding that their family members were being sought as part of the investigation.
Human smuggling is big business in Pakistan and other poor South Asian countries. There have been instances of workers being killed in border areas, or sometimes dying during road or sea travel.
The Chinese government is building a deep sea port in Balochistan and undertaking several infrastructure development projects under as part of a 60-billion-dollar investment plan to build a trade route to the Middle East and Europe through Pakistan.
Many people from Punjab and other parts of the country move to Balochistan to seek employment on projects run by Chinese companies.
A police official said all 15 were reported to have been kidnapped on Tuesday.
No one has claimed responsibility.
Violence-plagued Baluchistan, which also borders Afghanistan, has long been home to separatist groups seeking a greater share of regional resources and terrorists linked to al Qaeda, the Taliban and Daesh.