(M.Shahzad Sarwar, Karachi)

Human Trafficking is the global phenomenon which is increasing as one of the most profitable organized crime of mafias around the globe.

It is the fastest growing means by which people are enslaved, the fastest growing international crime, and it is also one of the largest sources of income for organized crime.

Human trafficking is the second largest source of illegal income worldwide exceeded only by drugs trafficking.

There are even reports that some trafficking groups are switching their cargo from drugs to human beings, in a search of high profits at lower risk.

Nearly 21 million people - three out of every 1,000 people worldwide - are victims of forced labour across the world, trapped in jobs which they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave.

• The Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of forced labourers in the world; 11.7 million (56%) of the global total, followed by
• Africa at 3.7 million (18%) and
• Latin America with 1.8 million victims (9%).
• The Developed Economies and European Union have 1.5 million (7%) forced labourers.
• Central and South-eastern European countries, and the Commonwealth of Independent States account for 1.6 million (7%).
• There are an estimated 600,000 (3%) victims in the Middle East.

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 labour trafficking. False job offers and high recruitment fees charged by illegal labour agents or sub-agents of licensed Pakistani overseas employment promoters entrap Pakistanis into sex trafficking and bonded labour. 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 labour—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.

Powerful gangs of organized criminals are trafficking hundreds of women and children from different parts of the country through Iran for labour and beggary in Europe and the Middle East. These smugglers promise unsuspecting parents that their children would get decent and lucrative jobs in Europe – but instead the children are subjected to forced labour in domestic servitude. Women and children from Punjab, particularly from Gujrat, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan and Sialkot are an easy target for human traffickers.

Gender inequalities and disparities in Pakistan are the added causes of women trafficking and exploitation. With many families favoring sons, daughters are viewed as an economic burden; early marriages and traditional dowry practices also augment the financial burden, forcing parents to sell their daughters.

The smuggled women and children are at the mercy of their ‘employers’, they might force them into sex slavery

Pakistan is a country in South Asia. Pakistan introduced the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PACHTO) in 2002 and the Pakistan National Action Plan for Combating Human Trafficking in 2009. PACHTO is the first national law to recognise the need for protection of trafficked people and to criminalize trafficking for the purpose of “exploitative entertainment, slavery or forced labour or adoption in or out of Pakistan.”

According to the National Action Plan adopted in 2009, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) acts as National Rapporteur on human trafficking and coordinates anti-trafficking actions in Pakistan. As part of its anti-trafficking efforts, the Anti-Human Smuggling Wing of FIA created Anti-Human Trafficking Circles (previously known as ‘Passport Circles’) in 16 major cities of Pakistan. In addition, ‘Anti Human Trafficking Units’ have been established at the Provincial Police Headquarters, FIA Headquarters and FIA Zone Headquarters and a ‘Human Trafficking Information System’ has been installed.

Investigations by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) reveal that among those smuggled through the Iran route more than 8% are women and children. “Human smugglers from Punjab and Balochistan prefer to recruit children between eight and 12 years of age, and women in their thirties and forties,” said Sultan Khan, an assistant director posted at FIA’s regional head office in Quetta.

“In most cases, women and children are smuggled along intending pilgrims who are issued valid visas for pilgrimage of holy sites in Iran,” he added. “However, from there, women and children are smuggled to European states via Turkey.”

Similarly, children and women were also being smuggled to Saudi Arabia along with intending pilgrims having valid hajj and umrah visas, disclosed Khan. Every year, Iranian authorities, as a part of a mutual agreement with Islamabad deport thousands of smuggled Pakistanis, including women and children, but Riyadh sends such illegal immigrants to jail where they languish for years without a trial.

Iran deports 20,000 to 26,000 illegal Pakistani immigrants every year through its immigration office near the border with Balochistan.

In January 2017, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), under its special campaign, has registered total 368 cases of human trafficking in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) during the last three years.

A data issued by Interior Division regarding registration of total cases in KPK on Monday revealed that during the period, there were 126 travel agencies and 208 travel agents were involved while the number of arrested travel agents was 176 and number of registered cases against accused was 157 and the number of convictions during last three years was 51.

The immigration-related laws of FIA are being extended to Torkham Border Crossing Point in order to establish the writ of the Agency to kerb illegal trafficking and human smuggling.

For speedy disposal of pending inquiries/cases and to enhance Agency’s outreach some measures have been taken including new FIA Police Station has been established at Mardan and the special court has been established in Gujranwala.

Further work needs to be done by increasing 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.

Special emphasis is being given to the illegal trafficking through Pak – Iran border. For this purpose a close liaison has been established with the agencies like F.C., Coast Guards, Levies, and District Police, as envisaged under the charter of Task Force established for this purpose under the Director General FIA.

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