BY MUHAMMAD MAJID BASHIR
What’s our role in mitigating an international scourge with domestic ramifications?
Human trafficking (the most heinous form of organised crime) constitutes the recruitment of individuals within or across borders through the abuse of position, with the intention of forced exploitation – be that commercial or otherwise. On the other hand, human smuggling is a criminal activity in which persons illegally transport others across international borders. The smuggling of persons may occur with an economic interest in organising such a crime, with or without their consent. However, most of the time such people rarely have any opportunity to migrate by legal means and they voluntarily look for smugglers who could take them across international borders. Human Smuggling is often confused with Human Trafficking but separate Protocols to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime help segregate the two: the UN Protocol against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children 2001 and the UN Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air 2000.
The exploitation of human beings can be highly lucrative for organised criminal groups. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated in 2012 that there were 20.9 million victims of human trafficking and in 2014 estimated that human trafficking generates annual profits of $150 Billion USD.
Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for an increasing number of trafficked persons. Women and children are trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation, bonded labour, and domestic servitude to and from East Asian countries and Bangladesh through Pakistan to the Middle East. Pakistan serves as a destination point for women who are trafficked from Bangladesh, Burma, Afghanistan, Philippines, Nepal and the Central Asian States. Pakistan acts as a core country for young boys who are kidnapped or bought and sent to work as camel jockeys in the Gulf States. Men, women, boys and girls are sold, rented, or kidnapped to work in organised, illegal begging rings, domestic servitude, prostitution, and in agriculture in bonded labour. Illegal labour agents charge high fees to parents with false promises of decent work for their children, who are later exploited and subjected to forced labour in domestic servitude, unskilled labour, small shops and other sectors. Agents who had previously trafficked children for camel jockeying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remain un-convicted and continue to engage in child trafficking. Girls and women are also sold into forced marriages; in some cases their new “husbands” move them across Pakistani borders and force them into prostitution. Furthermore the legitimate entry into the UK through the spousal visa system, through forced marriage, can also take place. Visas initially arranged legitimately for entry in to a country, become illegal due to overstaying and the victims become more vulnerable and dependent on their traffickers
Trafficking in Persons is most commonly linked to organised crime in Pakistan. Begging Rings and Mafias are the most frequently heard organised crime groups amongst the lesser acknowledged prostitution rings. Some more tribal practices such as Swara take place as well as inter-generational forms in prostitution and bonded labour. The link to organised crime is strong, which explains the heavy law enforcement emphasis placed on national strategies and also why crimes of this nature are hard to uncover.
Pakistan has ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) 2000. The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol or UN TIP Protocol, is a protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The protocol covers defining the crime of trafficking in human beings. To be considered trafficking in persons, a situation must meet three conditions: act (i.e., recruitment), means (i.e., through the use of force or deception) and purpose (i.e., for the purpose of forced labour).
Pakistan has also ratified the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. Pakistan ratified the optional protocol on the 5th June 2011. The UN Supplementary Convention on Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery 1956 supplements the 1926 convention to intensify national and international efforts to abolish slavery as still evidently found all over the world. Debt bondage has been defined under this convention and Pakistan signed and ratified this convention on 7th September 1956 and 20th March 1958 respectively.
The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families recognised migrant workers as a particularly vulnerable group of people susceptible to exploitation and abuse with regards to their human rights. Pakistan has neither signed nor ratified this convention. Furthermore the International Labour Organisation Forced Labour Convention 1930 has also been ratified by Pakistan which takes strict measures against forced labour including that from women and children. The Abolition of Forced Labour Convention of 1957 aimed at the abolishment of certain forms of forced labour still allowed under the Forced labour convention of 1930 which Pakistan ratified in 1960.
The Government of Pakistan does not yet fully meet the minimum standards as it has made insufficient efforts to combat trafficking. It has been argued that this might be due to pervasive corruption, lack of information and data on the problem, as well as a severe lack of resources.
The Constitution prohibits slavery and forced labour, and asserts the inviolability of dignity of man and the equality of all citizens; however, current domestic law does not specifically address the issue of trafficking in persons.
Since the 18th Amendment’s provincial autonomy, separate provincial legislation on Human Trafficking and Smuggling is required in compliance with the International Conventions. No single legislative framework has been set out by any of the provincial government to tackle solely the issue of trafficking and smuggling including Treaty Compliance Cell-TCC. Now in future, the compliance issues of these international conventions are more in the hand of Provincial Governments rather Federal Government. Therefore Federal Government should set up an International Treaties and Conventions compliance Cell and watch the efforts of provincial Governments’ Treaties Compliance Cell to curb trafficking crimes.
Only with regard to the issue of bonded labour which is one of the kinds of trafficking in Pakistan, the Federal government enacted the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1992, under which the provinces were to enact the same to prohibit bonded labour system in the country. Punjab took the lead, giving legislative effect to the Act in 1992, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhawa in 2015. The Punjab government has also recently enacted “The Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act 2016” in an effort to curb the practice of child labour at brick kilns, and take strict measures against violators. Sindh passed the Bonded Labour Systems (Abolition) Bill in 2015 which has received assent by the Sindh Government but has not yet been enacted. Baluchistan as yet has failed to take any imperative measure with this regard.
The Government of Punjab despite having passed the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Rules, 1995, which prohibit and punish bonded labour, have failed to comply with the prohibition. Estimates find over 1.8 million brick kiln workers in bonded labour which has still been found to exist in the hand-woven carpet industry, agriculture, brick kiln work, cotton-seed production, and tanning, mines and carpet industries. The informal nature of the sectors within which bonded labour exists causes the manipulation of workers into them. The Provincial Governments have to make legislation on these issues as well.
Both the Federal and Provincial governments are carelessly disregarding their International Obligations by neglecting to enact two pending draft laws; An Act to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children 2013 and an Act to Combat the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air 2013. The bare reading of these two drafts shows that the proposed legislations on human trafficking do not address the required definition of Human Smuggling and Trafficking. The drafts need more substantial amendments under the preview of “3P” paradigm: prevention, protection and prevention. To combat human smuggling and trafficking, special Courts may be constituted to deal vigorously with trafficking Crimes.
Pakistan, furthermore is failing to remove itself from Tier 2 Watch list of the US State Department. This may result in triggering sanctions such as limiting access to aid from the United States, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. Four straight years on the Tier 2 Watch List may trigger an automatic downgrade to Tier 3 unless Pakistan earns a waiver or an upgrade. It is becoming an absolute necessity for Pakistan to remove its existence from the watch list in order to gain the support from International Communities such as the United Nations and European Union.
Under new strategy to monitor, third world efforts to curb trafficking crimes, one is international compliance under the Conventions of the UN and the second is State specific compliance under domestic laws of those member states of the conventions. Like the USA has developed a different mechanism, the trafficking in persons Report under the US domestic law (Trafficking Victims Protection Act-TVPA) is very important .To meet the standards of this report deals with trafficking globally, The report says that Pakistan does not fully meet the TVPA’s standards, set up by US State department and official complicity in trafficking remained a significant concern in Pakistan
The current state of trafficking of humans in our country is resulting in a drain-out of resources and the existence of established smuggling and trafficking routes may lead to increased terrorism and drug routes, as they can easily be used to move illegal drugs and members of extremist organisations without a legal footprint. Pakistan had been a frontline state against terrorism as leading country combating terrorism needs full moral and financial support of the international community inter alia in socio-economic, political areas. The developed countries have quite different scale of recommending financial aids of developing countries. The parliaments of developed countries have made various policies and packages for these developing countries depending upon the nature of compliance of their international commitments. The human rights issue is always prime and important and Pakistan has given it firm undertaking while signing international conventions on human rights and others international treaties. The non-compliance attitude of Pakistan toward international commitments can indirectly harm and disconnect front line state organs/agencies from global appreciation and cooperation in financial assistance, intelligence and logistic supports.
Source: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk