Human Trafficking in Pakistan Part 4 – The Government Response

In 2002, the US, in their annual report on trafficking in persons, took Pakistan off the watchlist as countries who were not making any effort in the fight against trafficking. The reason for this removal was because Pakistan made an action to create a piece of legislation, called the Prevention and Control against Human Trafficking Ordinance 2002 (PACHTO). This was seen as a step for Pakistan to have made some efforts in combating human trafficking in Pakistan.

My report evaluated the effectiveness on the implementation of this Ordinance and my results found the rating to be a little too generous.

Firstly, they need to get their definitions straight. The general public could be forgiven for mistaking ‘smuggling’ for ‘trafficking’. Without going into too much detail here, the difference is mainly on the element of consent – smuggled victims willingly wish to be transported illegally while trafficked victims are coerced or kidnapped. The FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) however, those who have been ordained remit by the mentioned legislation, are expected to understand the detail and mechanism of both crimes. I found that while one part of the FIA had understood, eventually, that they are distinct from each other, such realisation had not filtered to another part, the main part i.e. the counter-trafficking unit. Therefore, the CTU remain firmly focused on countering smuggling as through their understanding: trafficking refers to those who voluntarily try to move between borders illegally, whereas smuggling are those who are coerced or kidnapped, apparently that does not fall within their remit as the US Government want them to counter trafficking. But isn’t there a problem? They think trafficking is smuggling and smuggling is trafficking . . . shouldn’t someone tell them? This also ignores half of the problem as evidence shows a great deal of trafficking happens internally, not necessarily just across borders.

As well as a skewed understanding of the definition, there is an overall problem of implementing legislation. It could be argued that the PACHTO doesn’t actually cover any new ground – there are numerous laws in Pakistan that outlaw human trafficking – there has never been any doubt that it’s a crime. What is the point of laws if they are not implemented? The intent behind it is fair enough, to harshly sentence traffickers, to recognise the victim as a victim; but the law has many faults and loopholes, which have emerged due to the rushed nature of the drafting and lack of consultation and implementation strategy. Quel suprise, no-one has ever received a 14 year sentence as dictated by the Ordinance and cases are rarely ever tried under PACHTO.

Lahore High Court

Thirdly the lack of assimilation doesn’t end on definitions nor with the Government. There seems to be a lack of co-prdination generally across NGOs, donors, police, local governments etc. A task force was created in certain provinces and districts, with resources dedicated to training professionals on understand human trafficking. There needs to be resources to roll out such task forces in a programmatic method rather than on a project basis.

What to do however, with a corrupt government? This seems to be the resolve of many – lack of political will and inherent corruption is a problem that is not easily resolved and it hinders efforts against trafficking as many officials have many gains to make in this business.

This is a crude summary of the response to human trafficking in Pakistan. Please do read the full report here and let me know any comments.

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