Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 14:39 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Pakistan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Pakistan, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 17 October 2017]
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 is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. NGOs, international organizations, and the media describe an increase in trafficking during the past year, due to flooding and the country's deteriorating security situation. The country's largest human trafficking problem is bonded labor, in which traffickers or recruiters exploit an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the terms of employment. Bonded labor is 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 and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. 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 Pakistan's population – are bonded laborers, though many NGOs place the estimate much higher. In extreme scenarios, such as when bonded laborers attempt to seek legal redress, landowners have kidnapped them and their family members, holding laborers and their families in private jails. Boys and girls are also bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped to work in organized forced begging rings, domestic servitude, and prostitution. NGOs report increased public visibility and awareness of the issue of 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 subjected to forced labor in domestic servitude, unskilled labor, small shops, and other sectors. Children and adults with disabilities are forced to beg in Iran. Girls and women are also sold into forced marriages; in some cases their new "husbands" move them across Pakistan's land borders and force them into prostitution in Iran or Afghanistan. Non-state militant groups kidnap children or coerce parents with fraudulent promises or threats into giving away children as young as nine 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 the children commit are justified.

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 recruitment 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. 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. Religious minorities, often in the lowest socio-economic stratum, and Afghan refugees are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.

The Government of Pakistan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so despite the severe floods the country experienced in 2010 and 2011. The government incorporated information about the differences between trafficking and smuggling in its routine anti-trafficking training, but did not criminally convict any bonded labor offenders or officials who facilitated trafficking in persons. The lack of adequate governmental protection for trafficking victims continued.

Recommendations for Pakistan: Significantly increase law enforcement activities, including imposing adequate criminal punishments for labor and sex traffickers; 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; develop a comprehensive criminal anti-trafficking law; pass or strengthen anti-trafficking laws and develop anti-trafficking action plans at the provincial level; consider establishing a federal-level agency with a mandate to combat internal trafficking to work in coordination with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA); continue to raise awareness and increase enforcement of the provisions of the Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act among law enforcement officers; continue to sensitize government officials to the differences between human trafficking and smuggling; improve methods for identifying victims of trafficking; strengthen provincial labor departments' capacity to combat human trafficking, including bonded labor, through training and awareness-raising and by adopting provincial-level anti-trafficking action plans; 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.


The Government of Pakistan made limited progress in responding to human trafficking offenses through law enforcement means over the last year. Due to severe floods in 2010 and 2011, government officials focused their attention primarily on disaster relief and recovery; as a result, the government's ability to prosecute trafficking crimes and provide data continued to be hampered. Several sections in the Pakistan Penal Code criminalize some 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. The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act (BLSA) prohibits bonded labor, with prescribed penalties ranging from two to five years' imprisonment, a fine, or both. Pakistani officials have yet to secure a conviction under this law. Under the devolution process that started in 2010, federal laws apply to provinces until corresponding provincial laws are enacted. The Punjab provincial government enacted the Punjab Bonded Labor System (Abolition) (Amendment) Act in February 2012, but did not make any substantive improvement to the federal-level BLSA. Pakistan prohibits transnational trafficking in persons, as well as some non-trafficking offenses – such as people smuggling and fraudulent adoption – through the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance, 2002 (PACHTO), which prescribes penalties of seven to 14 years' imprisonment. In 2011, the government passed the Anti-Women Practices Act, which, among other things, prohibits forced marriages in which women are used to settle debts. Offenders face sentences of between three and seven years' imprisonment.

Prescribed penalties for the penal code and PACHTO offenses are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not report any trafficking convictions under the penal code. The government prosecuted at least 55 traffickers in 2011 compared with at least 68 traffickers in 2010 under the penal code: one for sex trafficking and 19 for labor trafficking, and 35 that were undifferentiated between sex and labor trafficking. Government officials sometimes conflated human smuggling and human trafficking, and the FIA's anti-trafficking units dealt with undocumented migration and smuggling, in addition to human trafficking. During 2011, the government reported that it convicted trafficking offenders under PACHTO. However, since PACHTO also prohibits non-trafficking offenses, and since some government officials conflate trafficking and smuggling, the actual number of convicted trafficking offenders is unknown. A regional anti-bonded labor unit in Mirpurkhas, Sindh, established in 2010, continued to operate, but did not result in prosecutions or convictions for bonded labor offenses.

Government employee' complicity in human trafficking remained a significant problem. 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; a recent ILO report asserted that those who use bonded labor have been able to do so with impunity. Additionally, media and NGOs reported that some police received bribes from brothel owners, landowners, and factory owners who subjected Pakistanis to forced labor or forced prostitution, to ignore these human trafficking activities. There were media and NGO reports that some low-level officials in the FIA anti-trafficking unit, including police, did not register trafficking cases in exchange for bribes or out of concern for their personal safety. The government did not report prosecutions or convictions for officials complicit in human trafficking. The FIA continued to train officials on transnational trafficking issues at the FIA academy. In these trainings, the FIA incorporated teachings of the differences between smuggling and trafficking.


The Government of Pakistan made little progress in the protection of victims of human trafficking during the reporting period. Pakistani authorities 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 in prostitution, and agricultural and brick kiln workers. However, the FIA identified and referred some transnational victims to protective services. There were no credible data on the number of victims identified by the government. NGOs reported that trafficking victims were sometimes detained, fined, or jailed as a result of crimes committed in the course of their trafficking. Some victims were also detained in jails due to a shortage of appropriate shelters. Various government-run shelters are available to female trafficking victims, but there is no information as to how many such trafficking victims were assisted in shelters in 2011; furthermore, there were reports of abuse and lack of freedom of movement in the shelters. In partnership with NGOs, the government continued to provide some services to rehabilitate child laborers, some of whom may be victims of forced labor. The FIA reported that in partnership with NGOs, it provided some medical support, transportation, shelter, and limited legal services to victims of trafficking. There was no information as to how many trafficking victims received this support.

The government did not provide information on whether it made progress in implementing its 2001 National Plan of Action for Abolition of Bonded Labour and Rehabilitation of Freed Bonded Labourers. Under the government's devolution process, which started in 2010, all civil labor issues became the sole responsibility of the provinces, necessitating provincial-level action plans against bonded labor. There was no information on whether the Sindh provincial government continued to implement its project providing protection for freed bonded laborers, as noted in the 2011 TIP Report. There was no information on whether the government encouraged victims of trafficking to participate in investigations against their traffickers. The government did not report providing foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The Pakistani government made limited progress in its efforts to prevent human trafficking. FIA officials participated in NGO-supported anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns, and distributed NGO-published awareness materials. FIA officials also gave speeches at universities and did radio and television interviews. Many of the district vigilance committees to curb bonded labor, mandated by law, are either inactive or ineffectual. As a measure to establish the identity of local populations, the National Database and Registration Authority continued to register women in rural areas and internally-displaced people. In 2011, various governmental academies reportedly provided training for all Pakistani UN Peacekeeping Mission forces, including in combating human trafficking, prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions. The government took measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by prosecuting some clients of prostitution. Pakistan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Search Refworld