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March 9, 2019

Call for implementing laws to prevent crimes against women


March 9, 2019

Internal trafficking of women, children and human smuggling, child marriages, forced marriages and harassment in public places exist in a large number across Pakistan. Laws are not being implemented due to lack of human and financial resources to deal with crimes against women.

These observations were made by advocate Zia Ahmed Awan at a press conference commemorating International Women’s Day 2019 at his offices on Friday. Zia, who is the president of the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid, said the federal and provincial institutions were accountable since they did not seem to be playing their required role. He added that the justice sector and law enforcement agencies also needed to curb these crimes.

“We demand anti-trafficking programs and strategies to improve the status of women in our society. “The recent release of over 2,000 prisoners from Saudi Arabia is a welcoming step and Prime Minister Imran Khan has done a good job.”

He also appreciated the e-visa regime to promote tourism industry that would also improve bilateral relations with 70 countries involved. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was a lifeline for the country considering its massive economic impact although the country was also facing challenges of human smuggling, trafficking in women and children, undocumented migration etc., which might increase given the poor performance of human development in the country.

In order to reap the economic and human development benefits of these plans, we must also invest in social justice to eliminate the negative factors risking success of these initiatives, Awan emphasised.

He also said Pakistan had great laws governing the above-stated issues but needed resources and an implementation mechanism. The draft policy of migration had been on the shelves for the past 10 years but had not yet been approved by the cabinet or parliament, he lamented.

Another concern he expressed was the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation not playing an effective role to work towards the elimination of human trafficking and human smuggling mainly due to the tensions between Pakistan and India.

The Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) is a pioneer in tackling women and child trafficking and exploitation across borders of Pakistan, expresses his dedication to improve social justice, and Madadgaar helpline is one of the umbrellas to help the victims of trafficking.

He said incidents of trafficking and kidnappings of women and children were on the rise in Pakistan. According to the US Department of the State TIP- provincial police reports, there have been 14,571 victims in 2017 identified of whom 12,133 were women, 2,133 were men and 107 were children. Many of these cases go unregistered as police do not bother taking it seriously.

A media report referenced the FIA Anti Human Smuggling Wing stating 30,000 to 40,000 Pakistanis attempt to cross the country’s borders. Another 2019 report suggests there are over 11,000 Pakistanis in prisons worldwide and many of them are victims of human smuggling or trafficking.

The LHRLA has established a Madadgaar National Helpline catering to many cases, and its efforts have been targeted towards putting an end to violence against women and also women and child trafficking. This is clearly reflected through inter-provincial success stories, one of them includes the trafficking of minor girls from Karachi to Balochistan. These young girls were procured from the hands of traffickers and safely returned to their families.

Many cases spill over into regions of Afghanistan and Iran where drug and human trafficking is very rampant. These issues are parallel to those of undocumented migrants, labour and trafficked humans.

Advocate Awan believed they shared an underlying commonality of porous borders. He proposed the following recommendations to address the issues:

l The Government must present the drafted migration policy in the cabinet and the National Assembly for discussion and approval, then develop an inter-departmental framework of its implementation with adequate resources to address the issues of migrant workers and victims of human trafficking.

l The authorities responsible for e-visa, tourism industry, and the CPEC must be provided with adequate training and awareness about rackets of human trafficking and smuggling.

l We suggest that a memorandum of understanding be signed with neighbouring countries on human trafficking and human smuggling, especially with countries which Pakistanis frequently visit.

l We suggest a separate force to govern undocumented migration, trafficking and human smuggling of women and children.

l The government must build the capacity of the law enforcement agencies such as the Maritime Security Agency, Pakistan Coast Guard, anti-narcotics, border security force and the FIA to tackle this big issue.

l It is recommended that the government should form a commission for Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and collect data from the four provinces since after the 18th amendment law enforcement is governed by the provinces.

l The standing committees of the National Assembly, the Senate, the provincial assemblies and the relevant department must take cognizance of their responsibility to look into the UN relevant conventions and SDGs which Pakistan is a signatory to protect the citizens and migrants.

l The prime minister should further initiate negotiations for releasing Pakistani prisoners or at least have their sentences served in Pakistan, with countries such as the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Thailand, Malaysia and India.

l The government needs to allocate resources to deal with workers coming to Pakistan in large numbers specifically from China to improve the situation of undocumented migrants and trafficking of women and children.

l Learn from the countries who have successfully tackled these issues.

In the light of recent international events and agreements, advocate Awan strongly suggested that the government’s interests should be in improving conditions for Pakistani labour in foreign lands and their release from prison.

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