SLAVERY has other names — human trafficking and human smuggling. These feed on broken, indigent lives to make a killing. Although, Pakistan police officer Zaheer Ahmed received an award from the US State Department as one of eight anti-trafficking crusaders of 2023, the bureau’s new Trafficking in Persons report tells a disturbing tale. While the UN estimate of trafficking victims is 27.6m, a paltry figure of 115,324 was provided by state governments, meaning that “less than half of 1pc” are detected. In Pakistan, the trade has long preyed on children, women and girls for sex work, organ harvest, forced and child labour. But recently, an easier avenue came to light where marriage agencies lure young, impressionable girls to contract sham nuptials and migrate to new pastures; instead, they are hurled into the lurid underworld of sex and organ trade, for instance, in China.
The basic distinction between human smuggling and trafficking is consent. The latter thrives on enticement and coercion, not consensus, which must be understood by policymakers, law enforcers, bureaucracy and the media so that restrictions on an odious industry are made impenetrable. Pakistan’s action plan has to centralise potent consolidation and implementation of laws countrywide. All travel agents and agencies, registered or hole-in-the wall set-ups, should be standardised and kept under stringent surveillance to identify red flags, and, air, sea and land routes secured with firm, professional monitoring. As human traders flourish in developing nations and in times of soaring inflation, the state has to own its poor and provide easy access to skill development programmes that empower them to migrate through official platforms or stay in their homeland. Moreover, for countries with a gasping economy, the international community should help establish security. For as long as political and elite patronage for sinister money is above the law, such actions will prove futile. Perhaps, for now, such a crackdown is a pipe dream.
Source: Dawn, June 19th, 2023