KARACHI: Experts on Saturday discussed ways to combat human trafficking and bonded labour in Sindh during a session organised by the Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) in collaboration with Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and US Embassy Islamabad.

Speakers from the US, representatives of the Sindh Government, academia, media, parliamentarians and civil society participated in the session.

It was pointed out that despite being on Tier II watch list, Pakistan had improved to Tier II in 2022 and 2023 due to government actions such as curbing trafficking and prohibiting child soldier recruitment.

The speakers said Pakistan’s strategic location fostered Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and smuggling of migrants, which was compounded by refugee influx.

Syed Kausar Abbas, executive director SSDO, emphasised the importance of implementation and awareness at the district level and identifying government departments responsible for enforcing TIP regulations.

Say Pakistan’s ranking in Tier II watch list of the crimes improved in the last two years

He also highlighted specific cases handled by the SSDO, stressing the police’s obligation to act against TIP. Plans for an MOU between the SHRC and SSDO regarding TIP were mentioned, along with expanding human rights topics in the judiciary.

Mr Abbas added that capacity-building efforts, supported by the international community, were ongoing and that the SSDO aimed to establish a network of civil society organisations to combat TIP effectively.

Chairperson SHRC Iqbal Detho expressed gratitude to newly elected members and government departments for their participation in the session. He said the country’s Constitution prohibited slavery and human trafficking under Articles 3 and 11.

Mr Detho mentioned Pakistan Penal Code’s provisions on human trafficking, bonded labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and child labor and added that the SHRC intended to collaborate with the standing committee to review laws related to those matters.

With the authority to review laws, SHRC aimed to improve conditions for labor and agricultural workers in the informal sector, advocating for a wage increase from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 32,000 through the labor department, he said and commended the labor department’s dedication to the cause.

Joseph Salavarria, former law enforcement officer of the US and expert on combatting TIP, suggested a deeper understanding of what could be accomplished positively whereas Ansa Noreen, a TIP survivor and executive director of US based organisation ‘Empowerment Square’ in New York mentioned her provision of legal services in the US and said there was a need to work on the survivors of TIP to mainstream them in the society. The state needed to allocate resources for rehabilitation services of the victims, she added.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Marvi Rashdi emphasised the complexity and time-consuming nature of addressing organised crime, noting its substantial financial incentives worldwide. She also stressed the challenge of identifying the locations of such crimes and highlighted the ongoing need for legislative amendments. She proposed the establishment of dedicated human trafficking courts to effectively address those issues.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) Ali Khursheedi emphasised the vital role of police. He highlighted various issues that needed attention as well as the importance of raising awareness about available acts and institutions dedicated to addressing such issues. He urged all political parties to prioritise the matter collectively.

MQM-P’s advocate Sofia Shah pointed out the challenges individuals faced in identifying appropriate authorities for specific cases and spoke about the importance of broadcasting public service messages to raise awareness about human trafficking. She also highlighted how economic hardships worsened the issue, which led to increased suffering among affected individuals.

TIP expert Waqar Haider said human trafficking was a form of organised crime. He noted its coverage in FIA courses and highlighted discussions surrounding compensation under the relevant act.

SSP CTD Fida Hussain highlighted efforts to educate initial responders about human trafficking and stressed the need to raise awareness among the general public. He discussed the confusion victims faced in seeking help and the lack of clarity among law enforcement regarding appropriate actions, emphasising the need to clarify roles outlined in police and FIA regulations.

SP Zafar from the police department mentioned that 406 TIP cases were registered, with 1900 police officers receiving training on TIP. He stressed organising awareness sessions for new staff and utilising the 1715 CPO helpline. Mr Zafar also highlighted Sindh police’s inclusion of women at the district level in child and women cells. He added that despite TIP being relatively new, efforts were made to register cases under TIP, alongside the Pakistan Penal Code, aiming to enhance police’s contributions to combat it.

Rejomal, law officer from the labour department, discussed the enactment of the Labor Act, noting its shortcomings and the challenges faced by oversight committees under the deputy commissioner’s control. He mentioned the introduction of new laws such as Women’s Agricultural Act and regulations for home-based workers.

The speakers also stressed the importance of explicitly including TIP section in related cases, citing specialised acts relevant to each specific case and nderstanding the root causes behind the issue was also emphasised.

They said that while acts were available, there was need for effective implementation. TIP cases, including specific instances such as the Shikarpur and Jacobabad cases, were also highlighted during the session and attention was also drawn to the issue of bonded labour.

Zakiriya Rizvi, representative of the US Embassy Islamabad, said that the role of SSDO to strengthen the coordination and bridge the gap between different stakeholders was commendable. Rida Tahir, legal expert at SHRC, discussed the legal aspects of TIP during the event and moderated the programme.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

ICJ rebuke
Updated 26 May, 2024

ICJ rebuke

The reason for Israel’s criminal behaviour is that it is protected by its powerful Western friends.
Hot spells
26 May, 2024

Hot spells

WITH Pakistan already dealing with a heatwave that has affected 26 districts since May 21, word from the climate...
Defiant stance
26 May, 2024

Defiant stance

AT a time when the country is in talks with the IMF for a medium-term loan crucial to bolstering the fragile ...
More pledges
Updated 25 May, 2024

More pledges

There needs to be continuity in economic policies, while development must be focused on bringing prosperity to the masses.
Pemra overreach
25 May, 2024

Pemra overreach

IT seems, at best, a misguided measure and, at worst, an attempt to abuse regulatory power to silence the media. A...
Enduring threat
25 May, 2024

Enduring threat

THE death this week of journalist Nasrullah Gadani, who succumbed to injuries after being attacked by gunmen, is yet...