At least seven Pakistanis and an Iranian sailor starved to death, their bodies thrown out to sea during a failed mission to smuggle illegal migrants to the Gulf, an official said on Tuesday.
Four survivors managed to reach the town of Dera Ghazi Khan in Pakistan's central Punjab province where they informed authorities about the incident.
"The four survivors told us that eight of the 12 died because of starvation and their bodies were thrown out to sea. This is a case of human trafficking," Hassan Iqbal, the top local administration official, told AFP by telephone.
One of the dead was an Iranian sailor, he said.
The group of Pakistani would-be illegal migrants were going to the Gulf from Iran, where they crossed by land from Pakistan, but their boat was stuck for 10 days at sea because of a technical fault, he said.
The survivors were rescued by fishermen, he added.
"Those who died were thrown overboard. It was not possible for the fishermen to carry them," Iqbal said.
Officials said the case was under investigation and that many details were still unclear. The Pakistanis are understood to have left home in July.
"We paid an agent to smuggle us to Dubai," Rehmatullah, one of the survivors, told Pakistan's private Geo television channel, confirming that those who died from starvation were thrown overboard.