Reacting strongly to Pakistan’s inclusion in the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list by the United States, the Foreign Office on Friday said the move depicted “a factual error and lack of understanding”, and urged Washington to review the “baseless assertions” made against the country in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, 2021.
The US added Pakistan and Turkey to the CSPA list on Thursday. The designation could lead to strict sanctions on military assistance and listed countries’ participation in peacekeeping programmes.
The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act requires publication in the annual TIP report of a list of foreign governments that have recruited or used child soldiers during the previous year (April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021). The entities reviewed for this designation include armed forces, police, other security forces and government-supported armed groups.
The 2021 CSPA list includes the governments of the following countries: Afghanistan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen.
Expressing displeasure on the US move, the FO in a statement today said no state institution was consulted by the US prior to the publication of the report. “Nor were any details provided of the basis on which the conclusion was reached,” it added.
The statement emphasised that Pakistan neither supported any non-state armed group nor any entity recruiting or using child soldiers, saying “Pakistan’s efforts in fighting non-state armed groups including terrorist entities are well-recognised.”
It maintained that Pakistan was committed to fighting “this scourge — both at the national and international levels”.
“We have taken a range of legislative and administrative actions in that regard during the last one year, including approval of rules under the domestic Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Acts; National Action Plan 2021-25 prepared jointly by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and enhancement of capacity-building and inter-agency cooperation of law-enforcement agencies involved in anti-human smuggling,” the press release added.
It also highlighted that Pakistan had been voluntarily submitting information for the TIP report to the US government since 2007 and had actively worked on implementing practicable recommendations of these reports.
"Pakistan calls upon the authorities concerned in the United States to review the baseless assertions made in the TIP report, especially with regard to the unwarranted inclusion of Pakistan in the 'CSPA List'," the FO said.
“Pakistan also expects the sharing of 'credible information' on cases involving Trafficking in Persons as well as on allegations pertaining to support to armed groups using child soldiers.”
It stated that Pakistan’s views and perspective on the subject had been conveyed to the US authorities, while maintaining that “Pakistan will continue to remain engaged with the US government through bilateral channels for constructive dialogue on all issues of mutual interest.”
The CSPA prohibits listed governments in the following US programmes: International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defence Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations. Some programmes undertaken pursuant to the Peacekeeping Operations authority are exempted.
The CSPA also prohibits the issuance of licences for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments.
A statement issued by the State Department in Washington defined the term “child soldier” as: Any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces.
Any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state is also considered a child soldier.