PAKISTAN: Tier 2 Watch List
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, in which an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the terms of employment is exploited, ultimately entrapping other family members, sometimes for generations. Bonded labor is concentrated in Sindh and Punjab provinces, but also occurs in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, in agriculture and brick-making and, to a lesser extent, in fisheries, mining, and carpet-making. Some feudal landlords and brick kiln owners are affiliated with political parties or hold government positions and use their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labor. In some cases, when bonded laborers attempt to escape or seek legal redress, police return them to their traffickers, who hold laborers and their families in private jails. Children are bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped and placed in organized begging rings, domestic servitude, small shops, brick kilns, and prostitution. Begging ringmasters sometimes maim children to earn more money. NGOs report boys are subjected to sex trafficking around hotels, truck stops, bus stations, and shrines. Illegal labor agents charge high recruitment fees to parents in return for employing their children, some of whom are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking experts describe a structured system for exploiting women and girls in sex trafficking, including offering victims for sale in physical markets. Reports indicate police accept bribes to ignore prostitution in general, some of which may include sex trafficking. Women and girls are sold into forced marriages; in some cases, their new “husbands” prostitute them in Iran or Afghanistan. In other cases, including some organized by extra-judicial courts, girls are used as chattel to settle debts or disputes. Non-state militant groups kidnap children, buy them from destitute parents, or coerce parents with threats or fraudulent promises into giving their children away; these armed groups force children to spy and fight in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s large number of internally displaced persons, due to natural disasters and domestic military operations, are vulnerable to trafficking.
Pakistani men and women migrate voluntarily to the Gulf states and Europe for low-skilled employment—such as domestic service, driving, and construction work; 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 entrap Pakistanis into sex trafficking and bonded labor. Some Pakistani children and adults with disabilities are forced to beg in Iran. Pakistan is a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor—particularly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Women and girls from Afghanistan, China, Russia, Nepal, Iran, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking in Pakistan. Refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Burma, as well as religious and ethnic minorities such as Christians and Hazaras, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in Pakistan.
The Government of Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government approved its national strategic framework against trafficking in persons and human smuggling and reported an increase in the number of victims provided shelter in 2015 compared with 2014. The federal government and Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces passed trafficking-related legislation, and some provinces investigated, prosecuted, and convicted traffickers. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Pakistan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year. Per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Pakistan was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards. While the government continued to investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers, the overall number of convictions was inadequate, especially for labor trafficking, and law enforcement continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Despite bonded labor being the largest trafficking problem in Pakistan the government only reported seven convictions for bonded labor in 2015. The government does not prohibit and penalize all forms of human trafficking, and prescribed penalties for forced labor that allowed for fines alone were not sufficiently stringent to deter the crime. Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a serious problem yet the government reported no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of complicit officials. Government protection efforts were weak. While a small number of the total victims identified were given shelter, it is unclear what other rehabilitation services victims were provided, especially male victims, and observers alleged traffickers accessed women in some of the shelters and forced them into prostitution.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PAKISTAN:
Increase prosecutions and convictions, particularly of labor trafficking, while strictly respecting due process; pass an anti-trafficking law that prohibits and penalizes all forms of human trafficking, including internal trafficking, and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties, in particular for forced labor; provide additional resources to increase trafficking-specific services for victims, including for men and boys, and ensure victims are not penalized for acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; thoroughly investigate credible allegations of government complicity in trafficking and prosecute officials who are complicit; in partnership with civil society groups, increase efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including street children, refugees, people in prostitution, and laborers in brick kilns and agriculture; issue policies and provide trainings to government officials that clearly distinguish between human trafficking and human smuggling; strengthen the capacity of provincial governments to address human trafficking, including bonded labor, through training, awareness raising, funding, and encouraging the adoption of provincial-level anti-trafficking action plans; improve efforts to collect, analyze, and accurately report anti-trafficking data, distinct from data on smuggling; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government demonstrated mixed law enforcement efforts against trafficking. The government does not prohibit and penalize all forms of trafficking. Several sections of the penal code criminalize some forms of human trafficking, such as slavery and selling or buying a person for the purposes of prostitution; maximum penalties for these offenses range from seven years’ to life imprisonment. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent, and the laws criminalizing sex trafficking have penalties commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, the penal code criminalizing unlawful compulsory labor only prescribes a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Prescribed penalties of fines alone are not sufficiently stringent. Transnational trafficking offenses, as well as some non-trafficking crimes—such as human smuggling and fraudulent adoption—are prohibited through the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PACHTO), which prescribes penalties of seven to 14 years’ imprisonment. Prescribed penalties for PACHTO offenses are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The anti-trafficking bill, drafted in 2013 to address the gaps in PACHTO, remained pending in ministerial committees. The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act (BLSA) prohibits bonded labor, with prescribed penalties ranging from two to five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Under a devolution process begun in 2010, some federal laws apply to provinces until corresponding provincial laws are enacted, though most of the provinces have adopted their own legislation on labor. In April 2015, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa adopted the BLSA. Punjab adopted the BLSA in a previous reporting period. In January 2016, Punjab also adopted an ordinance criminalizing child labor younger than age 14 at brick kilns and requiring written contracts between the employer and all brick kiln employees outlining the amount of the wage, wage advance, and the advance payback schedule. The contracts must be sent to a government inspector; if a contract does not exist between the employer and brick kiln worker, bonded labor is assumed and the employer is liable under the BLSA. In March 2016, Parliament approved child protection legislation, which among other crimes included specific language prohibiting trafficking in persons.
The government reported data on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the penal code by province; however, data from Balochistan was not reported and the total number of trafficking cases or traffickers was unclear, as the government’s data reported how many cases were brought under each provision of the penal code and a case brought under several provisions would therefore be counted multiple times. Moreover, several sections of the penal code relevant to trafficking also include other crimes, and it is unknown if the crimes were disaggregated for reporting. Law enforcement officials continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling and may have reported statistics conflating the two crimes, as PACHTO criminalizes both trafficking and smuggling. Punjab reported 947 investigations, 928 prosecutions, and 22 convictions for sex trafficking. Punjab also reported 5,113 investigations, 1,956 prosecutions, and 60 convictions for abduction of women for illicit intercourse; it is unclear how many of these cases were identified as sex trafficking. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported 27 investigations, 27 prosecutions, and zero convictions for sex trafficking and separately reported 156 investigations, 83 prosecutions, and zero convictions for abduction of women for illicit intercourse. Sindh province and the semi-autonomous territories of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan reported zero investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for sex trafficking. For labor trafficking, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan reported a total of 21 investigations, 15 prosecutions, and one conviction. Sindh reported zero investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for labor trafficking. Separately, Punjab reported 15 investigations and prosecutions and seven convictions for bonded labor under the BLSA—these were the only law enforcement actions reported by the government on bonded labor, despite reports of land owners exploiting bonded laborers with impunity. The government reported investigating 158 alleged traffickers, prosecuting 59 and convicting 13 under PACHTO in 2015, compared with 70 investigations, 50 prosecutions, and 17 convictions in 2014. The government did not report sentences for convictions in 2015, as compared with convictions resulting in fines in 2014.
The government had 27 anti-trafficking law enforcement units and circles at the federal, provincial, and local level that investigated human trafficking and smuggling cases. The Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) and an international organization conducted several trainings throughout the reporting period for police and judges who work on trafficking cases. Additionally, in November 2015, the FIA, in partnership with an international organization, hosted an anti-trafficking and migrant smuggling conference to discuss emerging trends and best practices with more than 50 different country representatives. The interagency taskforce held meetings to increase information sharing among Pakistan’s various law enforcement groups in an effort to improve the tracking of migrant smugglers and human traffickers. The government specifically targeted for enforcement three districts in Pakistan from which the majority of migrants and trafficking victims originate.
Official complicity in trafficking remained a significant concern. During the reporting period, an allegation of forced labor of domestic workers was raised against a Pakistani diplomat in Portugal. The investigation into the allegation did not go forward, as the diplomat sent the domestic workers back to Pakistan before it could be completed. Some feudal landlords and brick kiln owners were affiliated with political parties or held official positions and used their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labor. In 2015, the Supreme Court requested additional information from the Sindh government in reference to a criminal case filed in 1996 against two landowners, including a former member of the provincial assembly, who reportedly used thousands of forced agricultural laborers in Sindh. The labor group responsible for the original court petition claimed landowners used their influence in the provincial assembly to intimidate bonded laborers and their supporters. The case remained pending at the close of the reporting period as the Sindh government had not yet submitted the requested information. The FIA’s report on the most notorious human traffickers in the country included names of several politicians; however, the report’s utility was limited due to its conflation of smuggling and trafficking. Some police reportedly acted against trafficking only when pressured by media and activists. Other reports indicate police accepted bribes to ignore prostitution in general, some of which may have included sex trafficking, and some police were accused of sexually harassing female trafficking victims who tried to register criminal complaints. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government made minimal efforts to protect and assist victims. In a previous reporting period, the FIA and police began to use standard operating procedures for the identification of trafficking victims and their subsequent referral to protective services; however, it is unclear how widely the procedures were disseminated and implemented in 2015. The FIA reported anti-trafficking circles identified 104 foreign victims in 2015; however, as the FIA’s purview includes both human trafficking and smuggling, it is unclear if those identified were foreign trafficking victims or were voluntarily smuggled into the country but had not experienced exploitation. The Punjab government reported identifying 14,701 victims, including 11,324 females, 2,845 males, and 532 children. The government did not report the categorization of victims between exploitation for commercial sex or forced labor. All other provinces reported identifying a total of 452 female sex trafficking victims in 2015. It is unclear if district vigilance committees set up under the BLSA performed their function of identifying bonded laborers. Authorities charged sex trafficking victims with moral crimes and detained and charged for immigration violations undocumented foreign nationals and Pakistanis returning from abroad who had crossed the border illegally, without screening to determine whether they had been subjected to human trafficking.
Civil society continued to provide most victim services. Under the government’s devolution process, which started in 2010, social service delivery and related governmental functions were devolved from the central government to provincial jurisdictions, which often did not have the financial resources and technical capacity to carry them out. Government-run “women’s shelters” were available, on a limited basis, to women in difficult circumstances, including trafficking victims; NGOs noted some of these facilities operated under prison-like conditions and reported traffickers accessed women in the shelters and forced them into prostitution. Observers advised there were only a few shelters designated for trafficking victims, which were ill-equipped to deal with victims’ social, economic, and psychological needs. During the reporting period, FIA signed a memorandum of understanding with an international organization and provided land for a trafficking victim shelter to be built in Balochistan. In 2015, Punjab began construction of a center in Multan for female victims of violence to provide shelter and social services in one location and passed legislation requiring the establishment of such centers in all districts. Shelters were available to bonded laborers; however, they generally catered only to women and children, offering little support to men. The government reported 1,486 victims were provided with shelter in 2015, an increase from 876 victims in 2014; of the victims provided shelter in 2015, 1,303 were women, 131 were men, and 52 were children. It is unclear how many of these victims were served in government-run shelters. Bonded laborers who were rescued but lacked identity documents were unable to access government services, including healthcare and food stipends, and sometimes returned to brick kilns or farms and assumed more debt. The government reported it provided protection to victims to encourage their cooperation in investigations; however, it is unclear how often protection was available or adequate. Victims expressed reluctance to testify against their traffickers due to threats of violence against them and their families. The Ministry of Interior granted extensions for foreign victims to stay in the country until a decision was reached on the victims’ repatriation by the Federal Review Board of the Supreme Court.
The government demonstrated modest efforts to prevent trafficking. In March 2016, the Minister of Interior approved the national strategic framework against trafficking in persons and human smuggling. FIA’s research and analysis center published quarterly newsletters with statistics and information on the government’s efforts to combat trafficking and smuggling. FIA partnered with an international organization to raise awareness on trafficking through community forums. The government dismantled a fraudulent migrant worker recruitment center that allegedly sent Pakistani workers to labor camps in Saudi Arabia, although observers asserted the government did not take sufficient steps to inform emigrants about trafficking even though a significant number of migrant workers become trafficking victims. Many of the district vigilance committees mandated by law and charged with curbing bonded labor continued to be inactive or ineffectual. In partnership with NGOs, the Sindh and Punjab provincial governments issued identification documents to bonded laborers and their families, which allowed them to access government benefits and reduced the probability of re-victimization. The Punjab Department of Labor ran a program to provide brick kiln workers interest-free loans. In January 2016, the Prime Minister announced 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan were granted an extension of residency until June 30, 2016; however, new cards with this expiration date were not issued, consequently increasing the vulnerability of Afghan refugees to police harassment and abuse and curtailing access to education and employment, which in turn increased vulnerability to human trafficking. The government reduced the demand for commercial sex acts by arresting clients and proprietors of brothels; however, police also arrested potential sex trafficking victims. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic and peacekeeping personnel. Pakistan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.