ISLAMABAD: The government has planned to establish victim protection centres in order to provide rehabilitation to victims of trafficking and bonded labour.
Minister for Social Welfare Syed Yawar Bokhari stressed that human trafficking was a major issue for Pakistan and it needs to be addressed by all provinces.
“We have to allocate resources to counter the issues of human trafficking and protect the victims”, he said and added that the social welfare department will collaborate with Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) to devise a plan to counter this problem in Punjab.
The SSDO has helped establish several working groups comprising officials from different departments including police, labour, social welfare, human rights, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), law and district administrations Pakistan is currently a Tier II country as per the human trafficking watch list developed by the United States and can fall to Tier III if due attention is not given to implement laws.
In a meeting of two working groups here on Friday, participants observed that there was a need to address challenges to implement Prevention of Trafficking in Person Act, 2018 and the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act, 2018.
Syed Kausar Abbas, executive director of SSDO said there are five districts in Punjab and four in Sindh that are considered to be hotspots of human trafficking and bonded labour.
These districts are Lahore, Gujrat, Jhelum, Rawalpindi and Multan in Punjab and Sukkur, Khairpur, Shikarpur and Ghotki in Sindh.
“The focus is to develop a mechanism for inter-departmental coordination and strategy to improve reporting of human trafficking from these areas”, Mr Abbas said.
Participants of the meeting were informed that as per the new law, combating internal trafficking was the responsibility of police. It was noted that eight cases of trafficking were reported in the past three years, however, the rate of internal trafficking cases is much higher in Punjab and other provinces.
Shahid Jatoi, an expert in the field said that one of the reasons for lack of legal cover to the victims and limited success of the prosecution in such cases is that investigation officers (IOs) in police stations are not trained to carry out proper procedure.
He highlighted that the reporting mechanism is out dated which makes it difficult for policy makers to gauge ground realities. There is a need to take effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and eliminate all forms of forced labour, abuse, exploitation, and trafficking, he added.