Human trafficking report – 22 Jul 2022

Federal, provincial govts criticised for failing to address ‘credible reports of official complicity’

A recent US State Department report shows that Pakistan has ‘improved’ enough in its efforts to combat human trafficking to be taken off the watchlist. However, the country remains in tier two category. This category includes countries whose governments are not in full compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act — a US federal law under which human traffickers can be prosecuted for their crimes if Americans citizens or residents (whether victims or traffickers) or American soil was involved in the illegal transaction.

The report noted a concerning distribution of Pakistani trafficking victims, with some being found in tiny European countries and even war-torn African nations, apart from the Middle Eastern and Western European countries that generally come to mind. Pakistan was credited with not letting the Covid-19 pandemic slow down its efforts to improve reporting, investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and the use of our own Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act. The US also removed Pakistan from its Child Soldiers Prevention Act list, meaning there is no evidence that government or government-backed armed groups are using child soldiers, as some tribal lashkars had done in the past.

However, there was some important criticism, including how the report noted Pakistan’s failure to sign on to the UN’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, making us one of a handful of countries — and by far the largest — not to have done so. But the local situation did get some deservedly harsh criticism, including for the continuing use of bonded labour at brick kilns and farms. Fines instead of jail time are still imposed in some cases when victims of sex crimes are male. Federal and provincial governments were also criticised for failing to address “credible reports of official complicity.” This last point is perhaps the most important — we cannot fight human trafficking if the traffickers are being rewarded with positions of power in the government.

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