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PAKISTAN: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by increasing investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of sex trafficking. The government amended its national strategic framework against trafficking in persons and human smuggling to extend it through 2020 and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict. The province of Sindh adopted a law prohibiting bonded labor and both the Sindh and Punjab provincial governments passed legislation criminalizing child sex trafficking and forced labor with sufficiently stringent sentences. In November 2016, the province of Balochistan passed legislation establishing District Child Protection Units, charged with providing case management and ensuring abused children including trafficking victims, receive appropriate government services. The province of Punjab opened its first wholly-integrated women’s shelter for victims of violence and Sindh increased its budget for women’s shelters. Punjab reported it identified and removed approximately 79,000 children working in brick kilns, some of whom may have been victims of bonded labor. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Overall, government law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained inadequate. Despite bonded labor being Pakistan’s largest trafficking problem, only the government of Punjab reported convictions for bonded labor and the total number was low—10 convictions in 2016 compared with seven in 2015. Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a serious problem, yet the government reported no prosecutions or convictions of complicit officials. Government protection efforts were weak. Provincial governments’ identification of victims decreased sharply and only a small number of the total victims identified were referred to rehabilitation services, which remained inadequate and inconsistent. Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Pakistan was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore, Pakistan remained on the Tier 2 Watch List for the fourth consecutive year.

Increase prosecutions and convictions, particularly of forced and bonded labor, while strictly respecting due process; pass an anti-trafficking law that prohibits and penalizes all forms of human trafficking, including sex trafficking of those under 18 without requiring coercive means, and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties; provide additional resources to increase trafficking-specific services for victims, including for men and boys, and ensure victims are not penalized for acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; thoroughly investigate credible allegations of government complicity in trafficking and stringently prosecute and punish officials who are complicit; ensure the creation, dissemination, and use of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to rehabilitation services at the provincial level; expand ability for freed bonded laborers to obtain identification documents and gain access to government services; take steps to eliminate all recruitment fees charged to workers; issue policies and provide trainings to government officials that clearly distinguish between human trafficking and human smuggling; strengthen the capacity of provincial governments to address human trafficking, including bonded labor, through training, awareness raising, funding, and encouraging the creation of coordination taskforces and the adoption of provincial-level anti-trafficking action plans; improve efforts to collect, analyze, and accurately report anti-trafficking data, distinct from data on smuggling; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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.

The government demonstrated mixed efforts to protect and assist victims. While Punjab opened its first wholly integrated women’s shelter and Sindh increased its budget for women’s shelters, provincial governments reported a sharp decrease in victims identified and continued to only refer a small number of victims to rehabilitative services, which remained inadequate and inconsistent. The government reported its use of SOPs for the identification of trafficking victims at airports and border crossings; however, it is unknown if provincial officials have and use SOPs for identification efforts and referral of victims to protection services. FIA’s anti-trafficking units reported identifying 131 Pakistani victims and no foreign victims in 2016, compared with 104 Pakistani victims in 2015. Provincial police reported identifying 4,518 victims, including 2,134 women, 2,184 men, and 200 children, a decrease compared with 15,153 victims identified in 2015. The government did not report which form of trafficking the victims were subjected to or the identification of victims by province. In part due to nonexistent SOPs or lack of dissemination and training on SOPs, authorities may have charged sex trafficking victims with moral crimes and detained and charged undocumented foreign nationals for immigration violations. Media and NGOs accused some law enforcement of being ignorant of trafficking indicators and allowing false charges against bonded laborers to be brought by brick kiln or landowners.

FIA reported it referred the 131 Pakistani victims it identified to NGOs for shelter and rehabilitation services; however, the government reported the provincial police referred to rehabilitative care only 220 of the 4,518 victims they identified. Civil society continued to provide most victim services, without provision of government support. Government-run “women’s shelters” were available to women in a range of difficult circumstances, including trafficking victims. Punjab reported all 36 district women’s shelters in the province were operational and assisted 49 women and 30 child trafficking victims during 2016. Sindh province operated five women’s shelters in its 29 districts and reported its budget for these shelters increased from 48.4 million PKR ($464,240) in the 2015-2016 fiscal year to 65.7 million PKR ($629,660) in 2016-2017. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported four of its 26 districts had women’s shelters and Balochistan reported it operated one women’s shelter. NGOs noted some of these facilities operated under prison-like conditions and, in the recent past, traffickers forced some of the women in shelters into prostitution. In March 2017, Punjab opened the first wholly integrated shelter for female victims of violence. In addition to housing, the shelter provided medical and psychological support and facilities for law enforcement, judicial officials, and a courtroom. Observers stated there were only a few shelters in all of Pakistan designated for trafficking victims, which were ill-equipped to deal with victims’ social, economic, and psychological needs.

Provincial child protection units in Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa identified and referred children in exploitative or vulnerable labor situations to NGO and government care. Boys could access government shelters; however, there was no government-funded shelter for males over the age of 18. In November 2016, Balochistan passed legislation establishing District Child Protection Units, charged with providing case management and ensuring abused children including trafficking victims, receive appropriate government services. The Punjab Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB) housed children in child protection shelters. CPWB operated open reception centers to identify and register children living on the street; during 2016, the centers identified and referred 1,457 child beggars to services, 750 of whom were referred to the child protection shelters. Authorities did not report how many of these children, if any, were victims of forced begging. CPWB also identified and removed 65 children from domestic servitude. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continued to fund and operate a 1,000-bed shelter for homeless children.

In October 2016, the Sindh labor department ordered each of its 29 districts to establish bonded labor district vigilance committees (DVCs) to ensure the implementation of the BLSA and required the committees to send monthly reports to the labor department. During the reporting period, two districts established DVCs and held meetings. Punjab labor department reported its continued funding and implementation of programs for vulnerable workers and the elimination of bonded labor in brick kilns, both of which support bonded labor DVCs; during 2016 Punjab reported 202 DVC meetings were held. It is unknown if DVCs set up under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa BLSA were operational during the reporting period. Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provided free legal aid to bonded laborers who requested help. Bonded laborers who were released but lacked identity documents were unable to access government services, including healthcare and food stipends, and sometimes returned to brick kilns or farms and assumed more debt. NGO-run shelters were available to bonded laborers, including entire families. The government reported it provided protection to victims to encourage their cooperation in investigations; however, it did not report how many it provided such protection in 2016 and it is unclear how often protection was available or adequate. Victims expressed reluctance to testify against their traffickers due to threats of violence against them and their families. The Ministry of Interior could grant extensions for foreign victims to stay in the country until a decision was reached on the victims’ repatriation by the Federal Review Board of the Supreme Court; however, it is unclear if this policy allowed legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. In December 2016, the government amended its national strategic framework against trafficking in persons and human smuggling to extend through 2020 and assign timelines to the activities. In November 2016, the government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, which among other provisions, requires the government to take all feasible measures to prevent recruitment and use of children by non-state armed groups. In July 2016, the Punjab, and in March 2017, the Sindh governments, passed legislation restricting the employment of children; both laws specifically prohibit the forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict as a form of slavery. The FIA reported provincial governments increased resources allocated for development-related labor programs, some of which were specific to the prevention of bonded labor, though at least a portion of those resources may have been previously allocated to be distributed over multiple years. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa funded and implemented a program to prevent child and bonded labor. Punjab expanded its multi-year project to eliminate child and bonded labor to include additional districts. In addition, Punjab reported, after passing a law criminalizing child labor under age 14 at brick kilns in 2016, it initiated 871 investigations, 819 prosecutions, and 24 convictions for child labor violations and identified and removed approximately 79,000 children working in brick kilns and admitted them to school. Punjab prosecuted 3,989 brick kiln owners for lack of compliance with labor laws, including non-payment and illegal deductions from wages, and imposed fines totaling 5.1 million PKR ($49,060). Punjab also established a hotline to report child labor in brick kilns and issued identification documents to brick kiln workers and their families, which allowed them to access government benefits and reduced the probability of subjection to trafficking. The provincial governments of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh funded and implemented multi-year programs focused on combating the worst forms of child labor and other labor abuses. Sindh partnered with an international organization to increase birth registration in rural areas, and Punjab continued to implement a birth registration program for brick kiln workers. The Punjab Department of Labor continued to provide brick kiln workers interest-free loans. In January 2017, the Lahore High Court directed the Punjab government to create a domestic worker policy. FIA’s research and analysis center published quarterly newsletters with statistics and information on the government’s efforts to combat trafficking and smuggling. In 2016, Punjab ran an awareness campaign in all 36 districts for women and children on human trafficking and smuggling and held seminars and distributed brochures to school children on bonded labor in brick kilns.

The Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) monitored overseas migration by issuing licenses to private employment promoters and monitoring workers who migrate through their own arrangements. The Emigration Ordinance of 1979 prohibited the role of unregulated and unregistered sub-agents; however, sub-agents continued to operate widely with impunity. The government allowed licensed employment promoters to charge migrant workers a service fee and workers to pay all the costs associated with overseas employment. While the government stipulated a receipt should be issued to the migrant worker for these costs, the government did not specify any cost limit and the BEOE did not consistently review migrant workers’ receipts—in 2016, an international organization’s research revealed more than 80 percent of Pakistani workers’ cost for employment in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates was the result of exorbitant visa fees. BEOE required migrant workers to attend a pre-departure briefing at one of its seven offices including on what to do if they encounter problems; however, observers asserted the government did not take sufficient steps to inform emigrants about trafficking even though a number of migrant workers become trafficking victims. In February 2017, the government announced 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan were granted an extension of residency until December 31, 2017; however, during the reporting period, there were reports of harassment and extortion of Afghan refugees by Pakistani provincial authorities, police, and host communities. Media reported some undocumented Afghan nationals who returned to Afghanistan due to alleged threats from Pakistani law enforcement were subjected to bonded labor in brick kilns in Afghanistan after being unable to pay their transportation cost from Pakistan. The government reduced the demand for commercial sex acts by arresting clients and proprietors of brothels. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic and peacekeeping personnel. Pakistan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

As reported over the last five years, Pakistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The country’s largest human trafficking problem is bonded labor, in which an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the terms of employment is exploited, ultimately entrapping other family members, sometimes for generations. Bonded labor is concentrated in Sindh and Punjab provinces, but also occurs in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, in agriculture and brick-making and, to a lesser extent, in fisheries, mining, and handicraft- and carpet-making. Some feudal landlords and brick kiln owners affiliated with political parties use their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labor. Children are bought, sold, rented, or kidnapped and placed in organized begging rings, domestic servitude, small shops, brick kilns, and sex trafficking. Begging ringmasters sometimes maim children to earn more money. NGOs report boys are subjected to sex trafficking around hotels, truck stops, bus stations, and shrines. Illegal labor agents charge high recruitment fees to parents in return for employing their children, some of whom are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking experts describe a structured system for exploiting women, girls, and LGBTI individuals in sex trafficking, including offering victims for sale in physical markets. Observers report police accept bribes to ignore prostitution in general, some of which may include sex trafficking. Women and girls are sold into forced marriages; in some cases, their new “husbands” prostitute them in Iran or Afghanistan. In other cases, including some organized by extra-judicial courts, girls are used as chattel to settle debts or disputes. Non-state militant groups kidnap children, buy them from destitute parents, or coerce parents with threats or fraudulent promises into giving their children away; these armed groups force children to spy and fight, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s large number of IDPs, due to natural disasters and domestic military operations, are vulnerable to trafficking.

Pakistani men and women migrate voluntarily to the Gulf states and Europe for low-skilled employment—such as domestic service, driving, and construction work; some become victims of labor trafficking. False job offers and high recruitment fees charged by illegal labor agents or sub-agents of licensed Pakistani overseas employment promoters entrap Pakistanis into sex trafficking and bonded labor. Some Pakistani children and adults with disabilities are forced to beg in Iran. Pakistan is a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor—particularly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Women and girls from Afghanistan, China, Russia, Nepal, Iran, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking in Pakistan. Refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Burma, as well as religious and ethnic minorities such as Christians and Hazaras, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in Pakistan.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future