WASHINGTON: The United States in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report for the year 2020 has downgraded Pakistan from Tier 2 to Tier 2 watchlist, although acknowledging it “is making significant efforts” in combating human trafficking.
The TIP report is divided into Tier-1, Tier-2, Tier-2 watchlist and Tier-3. Tier-2 watchlist countries are those whose governments do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Yet, the number of victims of trafficking is increasing significantly.
Pakistan’s efforts included convicting traffickers for the first time under the government’s comprehensive human trafficking law, convicting more traffickers for bonded labour than traffical convicted the previous year and increasing registration of brick kilns nationwide to improve oversight of workers whom labour traffickers target, the report added.
The US State Department noted that the Pakistani government also identified more trafficking victims this time than in the previous reporting period and initiated eight investigations against suspected traffickers for Pakistani trafficking victims identified overseas. In addition, federal and provincial authorities continued to collaborate with international partners and foreign governments on anti-trafficking efforts.
According to the report, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period.
US considers Pakistan a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking
The government significantly decreased investigations and prosecutions of sex traffickers, and Punjab, where over half of the population of the country resides, continued to disproportionately report nearly all anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, including 98 per cent of convictions. Only two provinces convicted traffickers.
Law enforcement efforts against labour trafficking remained inadequate compared to the scale of the problem.
Punjab continued to be the only province to report efforts against bonded labour traffickers. It reported more overall convictions this time than in the previous reporting period, although overall bonded labour convictions decreased from other prior years.
In Sindh, local officials continued to perpetrate bonded labour in brick kilns and on farms with impunity. Unlike the previous reporting period, the government did not take action against credible reports of official complicity in trafficking, and organisations reported official complicity and corruption which led to several high-profile trafficking cases being dropped during the year.
“The government continued to lack overall adequate resources for victim care, and only referred four per cent of all victims identified to care. Therefore, Pakistan was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List,” the report stated.
The United States considers Pakistan a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking of men, women, and children, specifically for forced labour and prostitution. Estimates of bonded labour victims are well over one million.
Annual US reports on trafficking claim that in Pakistan, boys and girls are also bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped to work in organised, illegal begging rings, domestic servitude, prostitution, and in agriculture in bonded labour.
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020