SEATTLE, Washington — In Pakistan, approximately 3,186,000 people live in modern slavery, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index. In recent years, human trafficking in Pakistan has been addressed by the Pakistani government with new laws and regulations, however much can still be done to improve the ongoing situation. In 2018, over 74% of the population was vulnerable to modern slavery. In the same year, the Pakistani government established new measures to discourage the practice.
Origin of Human Trafficking in Pakistan
Human trafficking stems from adverse circumstances in a country, but most notably is the lack of employment, poverty and wars. Victims of human trafficking are often lured by a job offer, sold by family members when young or mislead by fake cross-border migrators.
According to Walk Free and its 2018 Global Slavery Index, Pakistan does not meet the minimum government standards for eradicating modern slavery. However, since then, the Pakistani government has taken preventive measures to combat modern slavery.
Pakistani Government’s Response to Human Trafficking
- Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2018 (PTPA) – Ensures that those involved in trafficking are subject to a fine of one million rupees or a jail sentence of at least seven years, depending on the court’s decision. The trafficking of women and children results in the minimum jail sentence of 10 years. The strict penalties help target a large proportion of human trafficking.
- An Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) – Established to gather information about human traffickers and share the information with various organizations of interest such as the Balochistan Police and Maritime security agency.
- The Integrated Border Management System (IBMS) – Created to check all immigration posts which help monitor people entering and leaving Pakistan.
- Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance 2002 (PACHTO) – Outlines the meaning of human trafficking, including coercion and both buyers and sellers. The clear outline allows law enforcers to move forward with penalties quickly. It also defines two or more people participating in a transaction as an “organized criminal group,” allowing the government to prosecute those convicted.
- The Bonded Labour System Abolition Act (BLSA) – Sets strict jail sentences from two to five years and penalties for those who employ people to compensate for their inability to pay off their debts. In this situation, human traffickers result from people agreeing to the trade and its demands instead of repaying their loaners.
As a result of these new additions, 18 most-wanted traffickers have been arrested since January 2018, and 348 new cases have registered under new laws, including PTPA. The new measures and its results show the efficiency of the policies and task forces implemented in Pakistan.
NGOs Dedicated to Eradicating Modern Slavery
Additionally, several NGOs are fighting against this modern practice in Pakistan. One such NGO is the Society for Human Rights and Prisoner’s Aid (SHARP). SHARP strives to promote human rights across Pakistan by taking action against human trafficking, discrimination and the inability to access healthcare, among many other persistent issues in vulnerable populations. SHARP conducted several workshops to raise awareness about modern slavery in Gujrat, Bahawalpur, Peshawar and Mardan.
It also participated in a project that focused on bringing together different representatives from governmental institutions, media, civil sector organizations and U.N. agencies to a single forum named Pakistan Thematic Group on Human Trafficking (PTGHT). The forum allowed representatives to share new information, research the nature of human trafficking and discuss the consequences of modern slavery while identifying practical solutions. SHARP conducts regular awareness and sensitization workshops such as the one-day training session for police officers to identify and deal with human trafficking.
The actions taken by Pakistan’s government proved effective in strengthening the country’s preventive modern slavery measures. More can still be done by the Pakistani government and NGOs to bring awareness and place preventive measures to combat modern slavery. Nevertheless, the Pakistani government’s steps prove that actions should and can be done to fight human trafficking in vulnerable communities.
– Mridula Divakar