The government demonstrated mixed law enforcement efforts against trafficking. Law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking increased and the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, and the Islamabad Capital Territory reported data for the first time. However, law enforcement efforts against labor trafficking remained inadequate compared to the scale of the problem. The law does not criminalize all forms of trafficking. Section 369A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), amended in March 2016, prohibits transnational and internal forced labor and transnational and internal sex trafficking of women and children; however, Section 369A does not define the prostitution of children younger than age 18 as an act of human trafficking in the absence of coercive means, the standard of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Section 369A prescribes penalties ranging from five to seven years imprisonment, or a fine between 500,000 and 700,000 Pakistani rupees (PKR) ($4,790 and $6,710), or both. These penalties are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Several other sections of the PPC criminalize some forms of human trafficking, such as slavery and selling or buying a person for the purposes of prostitution; maximum penalties for these offenses range from seven years to life imprisonment. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and the laws criminalizing sex trafficking have penalties commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Transnational sex and labor trafficking offenses, as well as some non-trafficking crimes—such as human smuggling and fraudulent adoption—are criminalized in the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PACHTO), which prescribes penalties of seven to 14 years imprisonment. Prescribed penalties for PACHTO offenses are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act (BLSA) prohibits bonded labor, with prescribed penalties ranging from two to five years imprisonment, a fine, or both. Fines alone are not sufficiently stringent sentences. Under a devolution process begun in 2010, some federal laws apply to provinces until corresponding provincial laws are enacted, although most of the provinces have adopted their own labor laws. The provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa adopted the BLSA in previous reporting periods and in June 2016 Sindh adopted the BLSA. In July 2016, the Punjab, and in March 2017, the Sindh provincial governments, passed legislation restricting the employment of children; both laws criminalize “child prostitution” and forced labor. Punjab’s law prescribes penalties between three and seven years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes. Sindh’s law prescribes between five and 10 years imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes. In September 2016, Punjab also passed a law criminalizing child labor younger than age 14 at brick kilns and requiring written contracts between the employer and all brick kiln employees outlining the amount of the wage, wage advance, and the advance payback schedule. The contracts must be sent to a government inspector; if a contract does not exist between the employer and brick kiln worker, bonded labor is assumed and the employer is liable under the BLSA. During the reporting period, both the National Assembly and the Senate drafted new legislation to distinguish between human smuggling and trafficking and to prohibit all forms of trafficking; at the end of the reporting period the bills were in committee for review.
The government reported investigating 98 alleged traffickers, prosecuting 60, and convicting 25 under PACHTO in 2016, compared with investigating 158 alleged traffickers, prosecuting 59, and convicting 13 in 2015. Despite efforts to formalize differentiation in policies, some law enforcement officials continued to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling and may have reported statistics conflating the two crimes, as PACHTO criminalizes both trafficking and smuggling. The government also reported data on trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the penal code by province and, for the first time, Sindh, Balochistan, and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) reported data. Overall, the government reported an increase in sex trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. Punjab reported the investigation of 1,241 sex trafficking cases in 2016, compared with 1,291 cases in 2015. Punjab initiated prosecutions of 1,779 alleged sex traffickers in 2016 and reported 119 convictions, compared with 40 convictions in 2015. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported the investigation of 55 sex trafficking cases in 2016, an increase compared with 27 cases in 2015, and the prosecution of 263 alleged sex traffickers in 2016. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did not convict any traffickers in 2016—the same result as in 2015. Sindh, notably providing data for the first time, reported the investigation of 35 sex trafficking cases, prosecution of 164 alleged sex traffickers, and zero convictions in 2016. Balochistan, also notably providing data for the first time, reported the investigation of six sex trafficking cases, prosecution of 16 alleged sex traffickers, and zero convictions in 2016. The ICT, also providing data for the first time, reported the investigation of 22 sex trafficking cases, prosecution of 108 alleged traffickers, and zero convictions in 2016. Both the semi-autonomous territories of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan reported an increase from zero sex trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions in 2015. Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported investigation of 12 sex trafficking cases, prosecution of 19 alleged traffickers, and zero convictions. Gilgit-Baltistan reported investigation of three sex trafficking cases, prosecution of four alleged sex traffickers, and conviction of one trafficker in 2016.
The government’s law enforcement action on labor trafficking remained inadequate for the scale of forced and bonded labor in Pakistan. Overall, provincial governments reported the investigation of 11 forced labor cases in 2016, compared with five in 2015. The governments prosecuted five forced labor cases in 2016, involving 21 alleged traffickers, compared with prosecution of four cases in 2015. The governments reported zero convictions for forced labor in 2016, compared with one forced labor conviction in 2015. Punjab was the only province to report legal action on bonded labor in 2016. Punjabi authorities reported investigating 16 cases, prosecuting 12 traffickers, and securing convictions of 10 traffickers for bonded labor under the BLSA, compared with 15 case investigations and prosecutions and seven convictions during the previous reporting period. The government did not report sentences for any of the convictions.
The Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) was charged with reporting and coordinating the government’s response to human trafficking, despite its statutorily limited jurisdiction encompassing transnational crimes. Nonetheless, FIA investigated human trafficking and smuggling cases through its 27 anti-trafficking law enforcement joint task forces at the federal, provincial, and local level. FIA’s basic training for new recruits included information on human trafficking and migrant smuggling and, in 2016, FIA held two dedicated trainings for 78 officers to specifically distinguish between the two crimes. During the reporting period, a special training on trafficking was also held at the police academy, and police basic training continued to include information on human trafficking and the relevant sections of the PPC. FIA also reported 123 officers participated in 11 anti-trafficking trainings in 2016 held by foreign governments or international organizations; FIA contributed in-kind support to the trainings.
Official complicity in trafficking remained a significant concern. Some feudal landlords and brick kiln owners were affiliated with political parties or held official positions and reportedly used their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labor. In some cases, when bonded laborers attempted to escape or seek legal redress, police returned them to their traffickers, who have been reported to hold laborers and their families in private jails. NGOs reported some perpetrators of bonded labor successfully filed false charges against bonded labor victims leading to their arrest and imprisonment. In May 2016, media reported a Punjab police officer was investigated for registering a false case against a bonded laborer and was later terminated. Some police reportedly acted against trafficking only when pressured by media and activists and other reports indicated police accepted bribes to ignore prostitution crimes, some of which may have included sex trafficking. In November 2016, Members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and senior officials from Gilgit-Baltistan were accused in media reports of involvement in a child sex trafficking ring; the investigation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In January 2017, an Islamabad High Court judge was suspended and referred to a lower court for prosecution for the alleged torture and domestic servitude of a 10-year-old girl; at the end of the reporting period the investigation remained ongoing. In October 2016, a Pakistani soldier on a peacekeeping mission was accused of the sexual exploitation of a child; at the end of the reporting period the investigation was ongoing.