The government maintained law enforcement efforts against trafficking. Pakistani law did not criminalize all forms of sex and labor trafficking. Section 369A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) amended in March 2016, criminalized transnational and internal forced labor and transnational and internal sex trafficking of women and children. Inconsistent with international law, Section 369A required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. Section 369A prescribed penalties ranging from five to seven years imprisonment, or a fine between 500,000 and 700,000 Pakistani rupees (PKR) ($4,530 and $6,340), or both. These penalties were sufficiently stringent but, with respect to sex trafficking, were not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Several other sections of the PPC criminalized some forms of human trafficking, such as slavery and selling or buying a minor for the purpose of prostitution; maximum penalties for these offenses range from a maximum of five years to life imprisonment. These prescribed penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, were 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 migrant smuggling and fraudulent adoption, were criminalized in the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PACHTO), which prescribed penalties of seven to 14 years imprisonment. Prescribed penalties for PACHTO offenses were sufficiently stringent and with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Act (BLSA) criminalized bonded labor, with prescribed penalties ranging from two to five years imprisonment, a fine, or both; these penalties were sufficiently stringent. Most of the provincial governments have adopted their own labor laws under a devolution process that began in 2010, although federal laws apply until corresponding provincial laws are enacted. During the reporting period, the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir adopted the BLSA, joining the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. The National Assembly held multiple hearings during the reporting period to solicit input on a draft comprehensive trafficking bill that would take effect for all regions upon enactment; at the end of the reporting period the bill was in committee for review.
The government reported investigating 90 alleged traffickers, prosecuting 53, and convicting 29 under PACHTO in 2017, compared with investigating 98 alleged traffickers, prosecuting 60, and convicting 25 in 2016. Despite efforts to differentiate human trafficking and migrant smuggling in law and policies, some law enforcement officials continued to confuse the two crimes and may have reported statistics conflating them, as PACHTO criminalized both trafficking and smuggling. The government also reported data on trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the penal code by province and special administrative area. Overall, the government reported investigating 6,376 alleged sex traffickers and prosecuting 6,232 during the reporting period, an increase from 2,979 alleged sex traffickers investigated and 2,021 prosecuted during the previous reporting period. The government’s overall conviction of sex traffickers decreased from 111 to 72 during the reporting period, although the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported five sex trafficking convictions compared with zero during the last two reporting periods. Punjab continued to report the vast majority of law enforcement action against sex trafficking; of the national statistics on sex trafficking, 95 percent of investigations and prosecutions and 93 percent of convictions took place in Punjab.
The government’s law enforcement action on labor trafficking remained inadequate compared with the scale of forced and bonded labor in Pakistan although overall investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for bonded labor increased in Punjab. While the Islamabad Capital Territory reported one investigation on bonded labor, Punjab remained the only province to report legal action under the BLSA during the reporting period. Punjab provincial authorities reported investigating 264 alleged traffickers, prosecuting 257, and convicting 37 traffickers for bonded labor, a significant increase compared with 27 alleged traffickers investigated, 12 prosecuted and 10 traffickers convicted during the previous reporting period. An international organization stated the BLSA was not adequately enforced countrywide because of police inaction on complaints and lower court judges’ lack of understanding of the BLSA. Media reported three police raids on farms in Sindh, resulting in the release of 80 men, women, and children from bonded labor and one raid in Islamabad releasing 15 family members from bonded labor in a brick kiln; while the media stated charges were filed in the Islamabad case, the government and media did not report if charges were filed in the Sindh cases. Punjab was also the only province that reported taking law enforcement action under PPC section 374, unlawful compulsory labor, and section 369A, trafficking in human beings. Under section 374, Punjab reported the investigation and prosecution of four alleged traffickers during the reporting period. Punjab reported the investigation of 114 and prosecution of 112 alleged traffickers and the conviction of 17 traffickers under section 369A; it did not disaggregate these cases between sex and labor trafficking. The government of Sindh’s law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking decreased during the reporting period with a total of three alleged traffickers investigated and three prosecuted under PPC sections 370, buying or disposing of any person as a slave, and 371, habitual dealing in slaves, compared with 19 alleged traffickers investigated and 16 prosecuted in the previous reporting period. The government also reported data on several penal code sections that criminalized other non-trafficking crimes in addition to labor trafficking but did not disaggregate the data to document its specific efforts to combat forced labor under these penal codes. The government did not report individual sentences for any of the convictions.
The government’s lead reporting and coordinating entity on human trafficking remained the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA), despite its statutorily limited jurisdiction on human trafficking encompassing only crimes punishable under PACHTO, which was focused on transnational offenses. FIA investigated human trafficking and migrant 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. FIA also reported 17 law enforcement officers participated in six anti-trafficking trainings in 2017 held by foreign governments or international organizations; FIA contributed in-kind support to some trainings.
Official complicity in trafficking remained a significant concern as the government did not report vigorous efforts to address credible allegations and has not reported the conviction of an official found to be complicit in trafficking crimes for ten years. 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 refused to file a case and some police even returned bonded laborers to their traffickers. NGOs continued to report perpetrators of bonded labor successfully filed false charges against victims leading to their arrest and imprisonment. 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 government appointed a committee of members of the Gilgit-Baltistan assembly to investigate the allegations but did not report the outcome of the investigation. In January 2017, an Islamabad High Court judge was suspended and indicted for allegedly subjecting a 10-year-old girl to torture and domestic servitude; at the end of the reporting period the case was under trial. In February 2018, Australian media reported the High Commissioner for Pakistan in Australia had been accused of subjecting her domestic worker to forced labor for 18 months; the government of Australia investigated the allegations and granted the victim protected status. The Government of Pakistan did not report criminally or administratively investigating these claims.