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‘Political parties should prioritise ending human trafficking, bonded labour in election manifestos’

By News Desk
November 18, 2023
The image shows a glimpse from the training on Ethical and Victim-Centered Reporting on TIP. — Facebook/ SSDO Pakistan
The image shows a glimpse from the training on Ethical and Victim-Centered Reporting on TIP. — Facebook/ SSDO Pakistan

The Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) conducted a consultative session bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss and prioritise the critical issues of trafficking in persons (TIP) and bonded labour in the upcoming election manifestos of political parties in Pakistan.

The session aimed to foster collaboration among various stakeholders, including representatives from civil society organisations, government agencies, human rights advocates, academics, and media members. It provided a platform for open dialogue, knowledge sharing, and the development of actionable strategies to address the pervasive issues of trafficking in persons and bonded labour in Pakistan.

The SSDO, in collaboration with the Sindh Human Rights Commission and the US Embassy, Islamabad, organized a Quarterly Meeting of the Stakeholder’s Working Group on Friday at a hotel in Karachi to discuss the progress on issues related to trafficking in persons and mainstreaming TIP in the agenda of political parties’ manifestos. Senior representatives of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and Tehreek- e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) participated in the consultative meeting and endorsed the agenda.

During the session, participants engaged in in-depth discussions on the current challenges and vulnerabilities associated with TIP and bonded labour in the country. The session emphasized the importance of incorporating comprehensive and effective policy measures in the election manifestos of political parties to combat these issues.

Stakeholders demanded that the political parties demonstrate a strong commitment to combatting trafficking in persons and bonded labour by including specific and measurable goals in their election manifestos.

Syed Kausar Abbas, executive director SSDO, believes that addressing trafficking in persons and bonded labour requires a concerted effort from all sectors of society. By engaging with stakeholders and fostering collaboration, we aim to create a collective impact that will contribute to the eradication of these deeply entrenched issues.

He said that the outcomes and recommendations from this consultative workshop will be compiled into a comprehensive report and shared with political parties, government agencies, and the public to advocate for the inclusion of anti-trafficking and anti-bonded labour measures in the upcoming election manifestos.

Iqbal Ahmed Detho, chairperson of the SHRC, while giving the concluding remarks, said that the Sindh Bonded Labour System and Abolition Act of 2015 introduced district vigilance committees and designated the district labour officer as a pivotal figure; however, the absence of a labour officer in certain districts poses a hurdle.

Quarterly meetings, chaired by the deputy commissioner, were proposed with the Secretariat being the labour office.

Detho stressed the crucial roles of the legislature, executive, and judiciary. He highlighted the need for vigilant legislative oversight and expressed concern over the inactivity of standing committees in the previous tenure.

Ayoub Khoso, a member of athe SHRC, indicated that the PPP places a high priority on human rights. We have the agenda to promote the rights of labour and discourage child and human trafficking in Pakistan.

Shamim Mumtaz, former MPA of the PPP, stressed the significance of the election manifesto. She highlighted that it's the responsibility of every government to establish rules for every act, as the absence of these rules impedes effective implementation. She expressed her commitment to gathering recommendations and sharing them with the party for consideration.

Mohammad Abbas Jaffery, former MPA from the MQM, emphasized that since 2018, there has been increased awareness and attention to this issue among the masses. Additionally, he pointed out that trafficking isn't solely an international concern but also occurs internally within the country.

Mohammad Ali Aziz, a former MPA of the PTI, highlighted the political parties' disinterest in addressing the bonded labour concern, attributing it to the occurrence of such cases.

Fouzia Masoom, director of field operations, Social Welfare Department, expressed concern about children engaged in hazardous work within workshops. She emphasized the need for the Labour Department to address these specific cases and highlighted the prevalence of trafficking incidents, which are occurring at an alarming rate.

Athtar Ali Shah, joint director of the Labour Department, stressed the necessity for collective action among stakeholders to combat the child labor issue. He added that vigilance committees were established in many districts of Sindh. He further emphasized the importance of promoting unionization.

Uzma Noorani, trustee of Panah/HRCP, strongly advocated the eradication of bonded labour and emphasized the responsibility of political parties to ensure its end, along with the abolition of child labour.

Arshad Mehmood, board member, Employers Federation of Pakistan, emphasized that poverty stands as the primary factor behind bonded labour. He said that the political parties need to develop a plan to initiate skill development programs for the youth and children of Pakistan to increase the skilled labour in Pakistan.