The government demonstrated mixed overall law enforcement efforts against trafficking. Pakistani laws criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. During the reporting period, the government repealed the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance (PACHTO) and replaced it with the 2018 (PTPA). The 2018 PTPA criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 1 million Pakistani rupees (PKR) ($7,220), or both for trafficking offenses involving an adult male victim, and penalties of between two and 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 1 million PKR ($7,220), or both for those involving adult female or child victims. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. However, with regard to sex trafficking, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, these penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government continued to use other sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that criminalized some forms of human trafficking. For example, Section 371A and 371B criminalized the buying and selling of a person for prostitution and prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment and fines. Section 374 criminalized unlawful compulsory labor and prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Section 366A criminalized procuration of a “minor girl under 18” and prescribed penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Section 370 criminalized buying or disposing of any person as a slave and prescribed penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine, and Section 371 criminalized habitual dealing in slaves and prescribed penalties of up to life imprisonment and a fine if the imprisonment was less than 10 years. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. The federal 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, including anti-bonded labor laws, under a devolution process that began in 2010. However, federal laws apply until corresponding provincial laws are enacted.
The 2018 PTPA replaced PACHTO in May 2018 and the government did not finalize implementing rules for the 2018 PTPA by the close of the reporting period; thus, it did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions under either the 2018 PTPA or PACHTO, compared to 90 investigations, 53 prosecutions, and 29 convictions under PACHTO in 2017. Despite efforts to differentiate human trafficking and migrant smuggling in law and policies, some law enforcement officials continued to conflate the two crimes. The government reported data on trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions under the PPC by province and special administrative area. Overall, the government reported investigating 2,367 alleged sex trafficking cases and initiating prosecutions in 2,212 cases, an increase from investigation of 1,647 sex trafficking cases and prosecution of 1,540 the previous reporting period. The vast majority of sex trafficking convictions took place in Punjab under Section 371A of the PPC for “Selling person for purposes of prostitution etc.” The overall number of sex trafficking convictions remained unclear. The government had reported 72 sex trafficking convictions the previous reporting period. The government did not report sentences for the convictions. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and the Islamabad Capital Territory decreased sex trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions compared to the previous reporting period. Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltisan did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for trafficking offenses. Punjab continued to report the vast majority of law enforcement action against sex trafficking; of the national statistics on sex trafficking, Punjab reported 98 percent of the country’s investigations, 99 percent of prosecutions, and 100 percent of convictions.
The government’s law enforcement action on labor trafficking remained severely inadequate compared with the scale of forced labor, including bonded labor, in the country; and investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for bonded labor decreased significantly. While Sindh reported one investigation and prosecution for bonded labor, Punjab remained the only province to secure convictions under the BLSA. Punjab authorities investigated 23 cases of bonded labor, initiated prosecutions in 22 cases, and convicted three traffickers—a significant decrease from 197 investigations, 182 prosecutions, and 37 convictions during the previous reporting period. Punjab convicted the fewest number of traffickers for bonded labor since 2015. An international organization stated the BLSA was not adequately enforced because of police inaction on complaints and lower court judges’ lack of understanding of the law. No province, including Punjab, reported law enforcement action on forced labor under PPC Section 374, unlawful compulsory labor—a decrease from one investigation in Punjab the previous reporting period. Additionally, Punjab significantly decreased investigations and prosecutions under Section 369A, trafficking in human beings, from 79 case investigations, 79 prosecutions, and 17 convictions in 2017 to four, three, and zero, respectively, during the reporting period, although this is partly explained by removal of Section 369A after passage of the 2018 PTPA. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported one investigation under Section 369A. While media reported Sindh police conducted at least 66 raids on brick kilns during the reporting period—largely in response to Supreme Court directives—the province only reported prosecution of one bonded labor case. Sindh initiated two additional investigations and prosecutions under PPC Section 370 for buying or disposing of any person as a slave and Section 371 for habitual dealing in slaves. While this was similar to three cases under Sections 370 and 371 in the previous reporting period, it remained a significant decrease from investigation of 19 alleged traffickers and prosecution of 16 in 2016 and low compared to the scale of the problem. The government also reported data on several penal code sections that criminalized labor trafficking and other non-trafficking crimes but did not disaggregate the data to specify which cases under these sections were for labor trafficking versus non-trafficking offenses.
The Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) remained the government’s lead reporting and coordinating entity on human trafficking. The agency focused on transnational offenses, while provincial police generally investigated internal human trafficking cases. While FIA and provincial police coordinated on an ad hoc basis, overall collaboration remained weak and complicated law enforcement efforts and data collection. FIA investigated human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases through its 27 anti-trafficking law enforcement joint task forces at the federal, provincial, and local levels. FIA’s basic training for new recruits included information on human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Foreign governments and international organizations funded trafficking-specific trainings for police, investigators, prosecutors, and FIA officials during the reporting period; and government agencies contributed in-kind support to some of the trainings. NGOs noted provincial police were reluctant to file First Information Reports—required to launch criminal investigations—into many crimes, including trafficking, and some police requested bribes to register legitimate complaints and accepted bribes to not register complaints. Furthermore, observers cited the country’s overburdened prosecutors and judges, who frequently lacked adequate training, as a contributing factor to lengthy trafficking trials and low conviction rates.
Official complicity in trafficking remained a significant concern. However, for the first time in 10 years, the government convicted an official for a human trafficking-related offense. In April 2018, the court convicted a former district judge and his wife for cruelty to a child for subjecting a 10-year-old girl to torture and domestic servitude. The court prescribed a sentence of one year of imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 PKR ($360) each. The couple appealed the case to the Islamabad High Court, which dismissed the appeal, increased the sentence to three years’ imprisonment and a 500,000 PKR ($3,610) fine, and ordered the former judge’s wife to pay the victim 500,000 PKR ($3,610) in restitution. In October 2018, police removed a 10-year-old domestic worker from the house of a Pakistani army major after allegations of torture and domestic servitude; police arrested the army major’s husband, and the military reportedly initiated an investigation. In addition, the police suspended an assistant sub-inspector of police for the failure to file a police report when a neighbor first reported the case. While the government took action in these cases, it did not report vigorous efforts to address numerous other credible allegations of official complicity in trafficking, especially local officials’ reportedly endemic perpetuation of bonded labor, which created a culture of impunity for offenders. During the reporting period, NGOs increasingly reported that feudal landlords and brick kiln owners used their political connections to facilitate their use of forced labor. In some cases, when bonded laborers attempted to escape or seek legal redress, police refused to file a case and 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, at times in collusion with police. Some police reportedly assisted employers in kidnapping bonded laborers that authorities or NGOs had previously removed from exploitation. Police reportedly demonstrated reluctance to investigate cases of potential bonded labor when wealthy and influential individuals, such as local politicians, were the alleged perpetrators. Some police reportedly acted against trafficking only when pressured by media and activists. Observers alleged police accepted bribes to ignore prostitution crimes, some of which may have included sex trafficking. A research study of Pakistan’s garment sector published in January 2019 revealed that some garment factory workers reported forced overtime, underpayment of wages, and abuse—indicators of forced labor—and some of those factories paid monthly bribes to labor department officials to avoid inspections. In February 2018, Australian media reported that the High Commissioner for Pakistan in Australia allegedly subjected her domestic worker to forced labor for 18 months; according to media reports, 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.