Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:17 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Pakistan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Pakistan, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee5626.html [accessed 19 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Pakistan (Tier 2)

Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The country's largest human trafficking problem is bonded labor, concentrated in the Sindh and Punjab provinces in agriculture and brick making, and to a lesser extent in the mining, carpet-making, glass bangle, and fishing industries. Bonded labor also exists in the fisheries, mining, and agricultural sectors of Balochistan. Estimates of bonded labor victims, including men, women, and children, vary widely. The Asian Development Bank estimates that 1.8 million people – one percent of the population – are bonded laborers. In extreme scenarios, when bonded laborers attempt to seek legal redress, landowners have kidnapped them and their family members. Boys and girls are also bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped to work in organized, forced begging rings, domestic servitude, and prostitution. Recent press stories reported on the violence in child domestic servitude, including sexual abuse, torture, and death. Illegal labor agents charge high fees to parents with false promises of decent work for their children, who are later exploited and subject to forced labor in domestic servitude, unskilled labor, small shops, and other sectors. Disabled children and adults are forced to beg in Iran. Girls and women also are sold into forced marriages; in some cases their new "husbands" move them across Pakistani borders and force them into prostitution. NGOs and police reported markets in Pakistan where girls and women are bought and sold for sex and labor. Non-state militant groups kidnap children or coerce parents with fraudulent promises into giving away children as young as 12 to spy, fight, or die as suicide bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The militants often sexually and physically abuse the children and use psychological coercion to convince the children that the acts they commit are justified. News organizations, NGOs, and international organizations reported that the 2010 floods contributed to increased trafficking in Pakistan.

Many Pakistani women and men migrate voluntarily to the Gulf States, Iran, Turkey, South Africa, Uganda, Greece, and other European countries for low-skilled employment such as domestic work, driving, or construction work; once abroad, some become victims of labor trafficking. False job offers and high fees charged by illegal labor agents or sub-agents of licensed Pakistani overseas employment promoters increase Pakistani laborers' vulnerabilities and some laborers abroad find themselves in involuntary servitude or debt bondage. Employers abroad use practices including restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. Moreover, traffickers use violence, psychological coercion, and isolation, often seizing travel and identification documents as a means to coerce Pakistani women and girls into prostitution in the Middle East. There are reports of child sex trafficking between Iran and Pakistan. Pakistan is a destination for men, women, and children from Afghanistan, Iran, and, to a lesser extent, Bangladesh, who are subjected to forced labor and prostitution. Many traffickers who force Pakistanis into prostitution or labor abroad know their victims personally.

The Government of Pakistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so, despite the severe floods the country experienced in 2010. The government continued its programs to prevent and combat bonded labor, but did not criminally convict any bonded labor offenders or officials who facilitated trafficking in persons. The government continued to lack adequate procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and adequate protection for these victims.

Recommendations for Pakistan: Significantly increase law enforcement activities, including imposing adequate criminal punishment for labor and sex traffickers, as well as labor agents who engage in illegal activities; vigorously investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of being complicit in trafficking and convict public officials at all levels who participate in or facilitate human trafficking, including bonded labor; strengthen counter-trafficking legislation, including by amending the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PACHTO) to include all forms of transnational and internal trafficking; raise awareness and increase enforcement of the provisions of the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act (BLSA) among law enforcement officers; sensitize government officials to the differences between human trafficking and smuggling; improve methods for identifying victims of trafficking, especially among vulnerable persons; in light of the ongoing devolution process, strengthen provincial labor departments' capacity to combat bonded labor through training, awareness-raising, improving communication between provincial and district offices, and improving transportation for inspectors in remote districts with high levels of bonded labor; in light of the devolution process, ensure that the federally-run Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centers continue to be managed as places where victims can receive assistance; undertake local-language awareness campaigns on human trafficking, targeted to parents who sell their children; and improve efforts to collect, analyze, and accurately report counter-trafficking data.

Prosecution

The Government of Pakistan made less progress in law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking than in the previous year. On July 29, 2010, floods of unprecedented proportions began in Pakistan, affecting approximately 20 million people. During this period, most government officials focused their entire attention on disaster relief and recovery; as a result, the government's ability to prosecute counter-trafficking crimes and provide data was hampered. Several sections in the Pakistan Penal Code, as well as provincial laws, criminalize forms of human trafficking such as slavery, selling a child for prostitution, and unlawful compulsory labor, prescribing punishments for these offenses that range from fines to life imprisonment. Pakistan prohibits all forms of transnational trafficking in persons, and appears to cover some non-trafficking offenses as well, through PACHTO; the penalties range from seven to 14 years' imprisonment. Government officials and civil society reported that judges have difficulty applying PACHTO and awarding sufficiently stringent punishments, because of confusion over definitions and similar offenses in the Pakistan Penal Code. In addition, the BLSA prohibits bonded labor, with prescribed penalties ranging from two to five years' imprisonment, a fine, or both. Pakistani officials have yet to record a single conviction under this law. Prescribed penalties for above offenses vary widely; some are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Other penalties are not sufficiently stringent.

During 2010, the government reported that it convicted 310 offenders under PACHTO – 75 fewer than in 2009. The majority of these cases resulted in penalties of either no jail time or imprisonment of less than six months, which are far less than PACHTO's prescribed minimum penalties. However, at least five cases resulted in six months' to two years' imprisonment; nine cases resulted in two to 10 years' imprisonment, and one case resulted in 10 to 14 years' imprisonment. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) reported that in 2010, a human trafficker who was wanted to stand trial in Pakistan for 30 cases filed under PACHTO was extradited from Italy. Government officials sometimes conflated human smuggling and human trafficking. Furthermore, the FIA's anti-trafficking cells dealt with undocumented migration and smuggling, in addition to human trafficking. The government reported that it also took law enforcement actions against traffickers under the vagrancy ordinances. Under various sections in the penal code, the government prosecuted at least 68 traffickers in 2010: six for sex trafficking and 38 for labor trafficking, and 24 for either labor or sex trafficking. In a publicized case, an additional sessions judge in November 2010 acquitted the former Lahore Bar Association president and his two family members of torturing their 12-year-old maid to death, ruling that the girl's death was the result of an infection.

Some feudal landlords are affiliated with political parties or are officials themselves and use their social, economic, and political influence to protect their involvement in bonded labor. Furthermore, police lacked the personnel, training, and equipment to confront landlords' armed guards when freeing bonded labors. Additionally, media and NGOs reported that some police received bribes from brothel owners, landowners, and factory owners who subjected Pakistanis to forced labor or prostitution, to ignore these illegal human trafficking activities. In 2010, 70 officials were disciplined and 26 were given minor sentences, including: restrictions on conducting immigration work; compulsory retirement; removal from service; and demotion. Eight officials were either removed from the service or given compulsory retirement; some of these officials may have facilitated human trafficking.

In Sindh province, individuals had the opportunity to report labor problems to district vigilance committees (DVC) for resolution, though none did. Landlords and brick kiln owners often had seats on the DVCs, however, preventing the committees' effectiveness in providing remedies. In other cases, DVCs were dormant. The FIA trained 214 officials to address transnational trafficking issues at the FIA Academy. The FIA also lectured on transnational trafficking at the police training colleges.

Protection

The Government of Pakistan made some limited progress in its efforts to protect victims of human trafficking. The government continued to lack adequate procedures and resources for proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable persons with whom they come in contact, especially child laborers, women and children in prostitution, and agricultural and brick kiln workers. According to the FIA, the majority of the 16,530 Pakistani nationals who were deported from other countries during 2010 were identified as victims of trafficking.

The FIA has a process to refer trafficking victims to protective services, although universal application of this process remains problematic. There is no coordinated process to refer victims of internal trafficking to protective services, and access to protective services varies within the country. There were reports that women were abused in some government-run shelters. Shelters faced resource challenges and were sometimes crowded and under-staffed. While female trafficking victims could access 26 government-run and funded Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centers and the numerous provincial government "Dar-ul-Aman" centers offering medical treatment, vocational training, and legal assistance, the majority of the women assisted by these facilities were not trafficking victims. The quality of the Dar-ul-Aman facilities vary from district to district within the provinces. The quality and level of service in Punjab is stronger than in other provinces. Since 2009, the government, with the support of a local NGO, has operated a rehabilitation center for boys who have been recovered from militant or extremist groups in the Malakand district. As of March 2010, 150 boys were staying at the facility. In 2010, a second similar facility for girls was opened; as of March 2010, five girls were staying in that facility. In 2010, the FIA reported that in partnership with NGOs, it provided some medical support, transportation, shelter, and limited legal services to some Pakistani victims of trafficking who were deported to Pakistan.

The federal government, as part of its National Plan of Action for Abolition of Bonded Labor and Rehabilitation of Freed Bonded Laborers, continued to provide legal aid to bonded laborers in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and expanded services to Balochistan and Sindh provinces. The Sindh provincial government continued to implement its $116,000 project (launched in 2005), which provided state-owned land for housing camps and constructed 75 low-cost housing units for freed bonded laborer families. The government encouraged foreign victims to participate in investigations against their traffickers by giving them the option of early statement recording and repatriation or, if their presence was required for the trial, by permitting them to seek employment. The government did not provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. In some instances, trafficking victims were detained at police stations, borders, or in airport receiving facilities. Identified foreign victims of trafficking reportedly were not prosecuted or deported for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, not all trafficking victims were identified and adequately protected. Pakistani adults and children who were deported from other countries, some of whom may have been trafficking victims, were detained and fined up to $95, higher than one month's minimum wages. Due to insufficient shelters, police sometimes placed freed bonded laborers in a police station for one night before presenting them to a judge. In July 2010, the Regional Police Office in Hyderabad and an NGO established Pakistan's first anti-bonded labor cell in Mirpukhas, Sindh. The cell is in its nascent stage, but will permit bonded laborers to file police reports and obtain legal advice. In January 2011, the federal Ministry of Labor and Manpower hosted several provincial-level training seminars for local labor officers, designed to increase the effectiveness of labor officers in registering violations against landowners and brick kiln owners who use bonded, forced, or child labor.

Prevention

The Pakistani government made limited progress in its efforts to prevent human trafficking. The Punjab provincial government continued implementation of its project to eliminate bonded labor in brick kilns (launched in 2008). There were reports that this project helped 3,237 bonded laborers obtain identity cards and 1,906 bonded laborers obtain no-interest loans in the reporting period. The government also reported the establishment of 110 more on-site schools, for a total of 170. During the reporting period, the Sindh Department of Labour registered 710 brick kilns, a first step in guaranteeing that labor laws are applied to work sites, and a labor officer from district Larkana in Sindh registered 127 of these kilns. The government's inter-agency task force on human trafficking met a few times in the reporting period. The FIA met with NGOs and international organizations during the year to discuss trafficking and smuggling prevention. Some FIA officials participated in NGO-run awareness campaigns, and the government donated radio air time for the FIA to broadcast public service announcements on human trafficking and human smuggling. In November 2010, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) designed a plan to monitor and track human trafficking cases, as well as to provide victims with identification and services. The MOI is in the process of rolling out the plan to the district level police officers and the FIA. According to UNICEF, only 27 percent of children are registered at birth, as of 2009. The National Database and Registration Authority continued campaigns to register women in rural areas and internally displaced people to receive ID cards. In 2010, all 250 Pakistani UN Peacekeeping Mission forces received training from various government training academies that included combating human trafficking. The government took measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by prosecuting, but not convicting, 74 clients of prostitution. The FIA continued its quarterly meeting with civil society organizations and the anti-trafficking units to discuss best practices for trafficking victim identification and to increase the links between law enforcement and civil society organizations. Pakistan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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