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Stakeholders call for coordinated action against child trafficking

By Our Correspondent
October 04, 2023

Child trafficking is a grave concern that affects countless young lives, and it’s time for all stakeholders to come together and take a stand. The recent Fatima Furiro case in Khairpur has underscored the necessity of coordinated efforts in the fight against child trafficking, as isolated actions may not yield the desired outcomes.

In response to this urgent call, prominent leaders and stakeholders gathered in Karachi on Tuesday for a ‘Provincial Stakeholders Dialogue on Child Trafficking and Bonded Labour in Sindh.” This pivotal event, jointly organised by the Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) and the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and brought together a diverse group of participants, including the ministers and members of various official commissions on rights, government officers, and representatives of the police department, government officials, activists, and civil society organisations.

The primary objective of this dialogue was to enhance public awareness about child trafficking while rallying support for preventive measures. Additionally, a comprehensive strategy to combat child trafficking in Sindh, with a strong emphasis on prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation will be formulated.

The dialogue witnessed participation from a wide spectrum of society and highlighted the pressing need for the effective implementation of laws related to the protection of children in Sindh. Speakers emphasized the importance of creating awareness among the masses about the grave consequences of child trafficking and bonded labour on vulnerable children. They also advocated for the effective implementation of child trafficking laws.

One of the critical aspects highlighted during the event was the adherence to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children. Complying with this protocol is essential for Pakistan to maintain its GSP-plus status among the international community.

Iqbal Ahmed Detho, chairperson of the Sindh Human Rights Commission, said that the urgency of the mission to eradicate these injustices from our society is much needed. He added that prosecution is very weak and the government should work on it.

He said that about domestic child labour, there is ambiguity in the laws, and schedule and definition should be revised so that action can be taken. We need to make this cognizable. Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, chairperson of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, called for collaboration among government entities, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to address the pressing issue at hand. She added that poverty often compels parents to send their children to work, making support and guidance from the community essential. She underscored the significance of the existing act in safeguarding the rights of children.

Sarah Ahmed, chairperson of the Punjab Child Protection Bureau, emphasized the significance of implementing the policy, highlighting its potential benefits for children. She pointed out that child sexual abuse and trafficking are pervasive global concerns, affecting even the most developed countries.

Stressing the importance of raising awareness and taking these issues seriously, she also mentioned that Pakistan faces challenges related to its population.

Syed Kausar Abbas, SSDO executive director, while highlighting the grave concern over the rising cases of child trafficking, said the rising cases of child slavery and child trafficking demands our collective attention and action to ban child labour and combat child trafficking and slavery in Pakistan.

He stressed the need for building harmony among diversified legal framework for addressing specific child rights violations, including early child marriages, child labour, domestic labour, child trafficking, violence against children and bonded labour traditions in Pakistan.

Azfar Mahesar, deputy inspector general of police for the East Zone, Karachi, expressed his concerns about the gravity of certain cases not being appropriately addressed.

He acknowledged that while laws are in place and stakeholders’ coordination is steadily improving, there is still work to be done. Police officers are receiving training to enhance their ability to handle cases more effectively, with a focus on providing immediate relief to the public.

He emphasized the importance of support for the police force, given the high volume of cases, some of which require special attention.

Arshad Mehmood, board member and chairperson of the Economic Council-Employers Federation of Pakistan, speaking about child trafficking, said poverty is a man-made phenomenon and most of the issues of child labour, trafficking, and violence we are seeing today are all linked to economics. Most of the families and cases we are seeing today are happening because these families have large numbers of children and parents often view them as potential earners but are unable to adequately support them. It is essential for us to address issues related to population control and raise awareness about how this can lead to economic improvement.