By: Dr. Muhammad Suleman (M.B.B.S, MBA Health Management)
An industry that earns $32 billion per annum and a business exploiting over 21 million lives—human trafficking is a poison that taints the life of millions across the world.
Human trafficking is a global phenomenon, irrespective of history, culture, socio-economic conditions or political structure. Worldwide human trafficking affects 161 countries and has created a thriving international market for cheap labor and commercial sex. On the globe almost 21 million people are trafficked across international borders for this purpose.
To assess the severity of state of trafficking around the globe, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime published an annual report named Trafficking in Person (TIP). According to this report victims from South Asia are forced into labor, slavery or servitude. This is a global trafficking business in the region. Victims from this region are trafficked to Southern Africa, South America and 13 European countries. Among the victims, 23% are trafficked to Middle East alone. Indian and Pakistani victims are mostly smuggled to Western and Central Europe.
Pakistan occupies the Tier 2 status with four other South Asian countries including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Tier 2 are those countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to do so. However human trafficking has escalated within and through Pakistan in the previous year due to natural disasters, weak economy and law and order situation. According to Federal Investigation Agency Red Book the number of human traffickers has increased to 141 in previous year from 132 in 2012 and 95 in 2011. These criminals have smuggled 8324 victims from Pakistan to Middle East, African and European countries. HIgh trafficking of children has given rise to baby snatching and stealing industry in the country. Majority of victims from Pakistan are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking within the country. Due to its particular location geographically, Pakistan has become a preferred source and route for international trafficking.
One main practice in Pakistan is bonded labor, predominantly in Sindh and Punjab. Victims are exploited by recruiter and traffickers by initial debt assumed by worker as part of the terms of employment. Agriculture and industries like garments, fishing, mining and carpet weaving are heavily involved in it. Children are sold, bought or kidnapped and subjected to prostitution, domestic servitude, working in factories or placed in the thriving begging industry. Children are perhaps the most vulnerable group in Pakistan. Traffickers coerce parents to recruit young boys under pretense of providing work to them, charging the high recruitment fees. Parents are given the false hope that the child will be given good amount of money and then is placed under slavery. These boys are then subjected to forced labor and prostitution.
Toddlers and young children are also sold to Middle Eastern countries for camel races as jockeys and organ donors in black market. Militant groups either coerce parents or kidnapped children and use them for spying as their recruits or train them as suicide bombers. In Pakistan the main threat to women and girls is forced marriages, their so-called husbands then move them across borders and coerce them into prostitution.
According FIA Red Book majority of human traffickers in Pakistan belong from Gujrat and Gujranwala, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The route utilized by these traffickers is Gulistan, Chaman, Rabat, Nushki, Chagai, MandBallu, Panjgur, Taftan and Turbat.
Pakistani government has made very few inadequate efforts to prevent human trafficking in the recent years. FIA has placed anti-trafficking posters at airports and border crossings to raise awareness of trans-national trafficking. Many of the district vigilance committees remain either inactive or incompetent in restricting bonded labor and mandating the law. The government of Pakistan is presently unable to comply with the minimum standards of Trafficking Victims Protection Act. If significant efforts are not made to control human trafficking Pakistan might fall into the Tier 2 watch list. Tier 2 includes countries where human trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing. It includes countries where there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year. Finally Tier 2 includes countries making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards.
There are multiple reports of missing persons in the media. Sadly, there are no steps taken by the government to tackle these issues. Unless addressed, human traficking will remain a black mark on the face of the country.