ISLAMABAD: The Tayyaba torture case has not only exposed loopholes in Pakistan’s judicial system, but also showed that there is no law to counter or keep a check on internal migration of minors that encourages child labour.
On Jan 4, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the maltreatment of the 10-year-old housemaid by a serving judge and his spouse, and the compromise on the basis of which two additional district and sessions judges provided relief to the judge and his spouse in haste.
During the hearing of the case, internal trafficking of minors was also highlighted.
No laws to check internal trafficking; apex court asks NGOs & activists for proposals to curb such practices
It was stated that there was no law in Pakistan that could protect a child from torture, nor was there a forum that could be approached by the parents of such children for a compromise, in case their child was tortured by an influential person.
Though there is a law to curtail human trafficking to other countries, Pakistan is yet to legislate on the matter of domestic trafficking.
The recent incident provided an indication of how minor children were brought to Islamabad and other cities from remote areas to serve well-off people.
An agent, Nadira, brought Tayyaba to serve the family of the additional district and sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan when the girl was only seven and a half years old.
The agent first contacted the girl’s family and offered them a job for Tayyaba at a monthly salary of Rs3,000.
As per the court record, Nadira brought the girl to the ADSJ’s residence in August 2014 and took Rs40,000, of which she gave Rs18,000 to the child’s parents. Between Aug 2014 to Jan 2017, the girl only spoke to her parents twice, and that too over the phone.
During the suo motu proceedings, Valerie Khan Yousafzai, a representative of Group Development Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation, submitted a report to the apex court stating that hundreds of thousands of children were the victims of internal trafficking.
The report said that popular destinations for internally trafficked minor children were Murree, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
According to the report, of 1,504 children interviewed by the NGO on the streets of Murree, 42.2pc were from Punjab, 36.1pc from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1pc from Azad Kashmir, 8pc from unspecified areas and 12.4pc from Afghanistan.
These children were associated with begging, garbage collection, vending, selling bubble gums, boiled eggs, cakes and pastries, toys, green tea, fancy caps, female purses, plastic flowers, berries, shoe polishing, pushing or pulling carts and working in hotels and restaurants.
The report said children were brought to Murree by contractors, which could be termed internal trafficking. It said there were two categories of children: those who lived with their so-called relatives and independent.
It, however, said some children who reported that they were living with their relatives were counter-checked and found that they had no biological ties with their hosts.
“The reality of the matter in most of the cases was that the child and the adult might have been from the same village but did not have any blood relation.” The children were brought “after some financial management e.g. monthly income and one-time payment to parents for the services of the child for a few months in Murree,” it said.
The report claimed that it was a modern form of slavery and that to make it socially acceptable, the child was asked to call their host uncle or elder brother. The person who paid a certain amount to their parents can further sell or rent the child to another person against a specific amount and for a specified period.
A senior police officer told Dawn that they cannot stop internal trafficking and in case they receive any information about the abuse of a child, police can register a case under the Pakistan Penal Code.
Advocate General Islamabad Mian Abdul Rauf recently told the Supreme Court that the federal government could not legislate to prohibit or counter domestic violence on children.
While the apex court has referred the case against the judge and his spouse to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for referring it to the trial court, it has kept the matter related to internal trafficking and the abuse of minors.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has sought proposals from NGOs and rights activists to discourage such practices. The apex court would discuss the recommendations next week after which it would pass directions to the federal government for making legislation on child trafficking and abuse of minors and domestic workers.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2017