KARACHI: Ineffective law enforcement, official complicity, penalisation of victims and the continued conflation of migrant smuggling and human trafficking by government officials have kept Pakistan on the Tier 2 Watch List of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report for a second consecutive year.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards are placed on Tier 2. Of these, countries where the numbers of victims are very significant or significantly increasing, and that have failed to make an effort to combat trafficking are placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, according to the 382-page report.
Pakistan shares the tier with countries like Djibouti, Cuba, Burma, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan’s largest human trafficking problem is bonded labour, the report found, which was concentrated in Sindh and Punjab, and occurred mostly in agriculture and brick-making, but also, to a lesser extent, in fisheries, mining, and carpet-making industries.
The report reinforces the notion that brick kiln owners and feudal landlords at times were affiliated with political parties or hold government positions, and use their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labour.
The report also highlighted that Pakistan was a destination country for men, women, and children (particularly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) who were subjected to forced labour, while women and girls from Afghanistan, China, Russia, Nepal, Iran, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan were reportedly subjected to sex trafficking in the country.
The report recommends Pakistan, which was a source, transit, and destination country for individuals subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, to “vigorously investigate and prosecute, respecting due process, suspected trafficking offenders and officials complicit in trafficking; to pass anti-trafficking laws; ensure victims are not penalized for acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.”
The report highlights the lack of understanding of law enforcement officials who conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling figures.
The report does mention the FIA’s efforts in countering the evil of trafficking.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2015.