International Conference on Combating Trafficking in Persons in Pakistan Concludes with Commitments and recommendations

Pakistan (Muhammad Yasir)

The two-day international conference, organized by Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) in alliance with the US Embassy and Pakistan US Alumni Network (PUAN) with the purpose of reducing trafficking in persons and increasing direct referrals of victims for services or rehabilitation and advocating for prevention and prosecution of Trafficking in Persons came to an end with participants and panelists sharing collectively developed ideas and recommendations.

Mushahid Hussain Syed, Member of Senate, spoke at the Closing Ceremony where he articulately explained the intricacies of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) coupled with narcoterrorism, developing into a dangerous dimension of this issue to the point that it is becoming a national security threat.
The Senator also stressed the need for regional, national, and global partnerships and thanked the US Embassy for collaborating in this initiative with SSDO.

During opening of the conference Mr. Donald Blome, US Ambassador to Pakistan reminded that trafficking in persons is a centuries old problem that requires everyone to play a role and create innovative approaches to combat perpetrators who remain a threat due to continuous development of new trafficking techniques. His message was further addressed by Chief Guest, Ms. Shehla Raza, Deputy Speaker of Sindh Provincial Assembly by adding that human trafficking is a disaster of its own kind which severely impacts women and children in particular. There is a law-and-order imbalance, alongside poverty and illiteracy, which makes trafficking in persons easier to execute. Ms. Raza stated that her ministry is working on legal aid and provision of rehabilitation for victims.

Mr. Syed Kausar Abbas, Executive Director SSDO emphasized the necessity of developing understanding among law makers and implementers to sensitize them towards and mainstream the issue of trafficking in persons. Since 2015, Pakistan appeared five times in the Tier II Watchlist countries in the US Department of State’s annual report on TIP. The reason for Pakistan getting moved up to Tier II in the 2022 US report, is attributed to the development of trafficking prevention legislation, particularly the “Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018” and the increased efforts of the government and coordination between stakeholders.

US Embassy members responded with their input including guest of honor, panelist Ms. Terresa Chang who appreciated Pakistan’s efforts towards tackling Trafficking in Persons via legislation, awareness-raising, and initiatives such as this International Conference.

Deputy Chief of Mission Andrew Schofer of the US Embassy expressed the utility and impressive depth of knowledge presented across plenary sessions. He highlighted that TIP undermines national security, distorts markets and endorses terrorism.

Further, the participants showcased their collectively developed ideas and recommendations to tackle Trafficking in Persons in Pakistan prepared after the first day breakout working group sessions moderated by experts such as Dan Nash, Founder Human Trafficking Training Centre USA and Kevin Metcalf, Founder National Child Protection Task Force USA, participants presented their findings on day two.

Some recommendations produced by participants were developing understanding and sensitizing relevant stakeholders such as law enforcers, government officials and civil society. They stressed on the need that everyone is responsible for spreading awareness and reporting any suspicious TIP related activities that they see. Investing in resources for rehabilitation and protection of Trafficking victims was considered an important need.

Sustainable Social Development Organization is implementing a project with the support of US Mission, and contributing in capacity building, strengthening coordination, and spreading awareness about human trafficking among all relevant stakeholders. This conference was one of the initiatives for this cause where participants and panelists alike developed an in-depth understanding of trafficking of persons in Pakistan.