Ambassador Maleeha Lodi has been talking tough at the UN Security Council. She is right to do so. As such, her appeal for an increased global effort on to dismantle the prevailing smuggling-trafficking-terrorist nexus is welcome.
Pakistan, however, must not forget to turn the spotlight inwards.
It has made slow moves in the right direction with the Interior Ministry taking the lead in introducing two important bills: Bill to Prevent and Combat the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; and Bill to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children. After a delay of many years, both bills were moved to the Senate last September. The government cannot afford to lose the momentum.
When it comes to bonded labour and trafficking, including enforced prostitution, Pakistan is both a source and destination country. It cannot hope to address one without confronting the other. Yet the plight of the Pakistani girl child remains of utmost concern. She is routinely bought and sold to settle debts. She is raped, killed and hung out to die in a field in retribution for her father asking for his wages. She routinely pays the price of this failed system with her very life.
Things are not so much better for young underprivileged boys. We are still waiting for Imran Khan to present the findings of Pakistan’s Hidden Shame to Parliament. The British documentary, which aired in 2014, focuses on the plight of young boys left to fend for themselves in Peshawar. It also includes footage of Khan making this promise.
While urging the government over its proposed crucial safeguards — the privileged chattering class must become serious about playing their part. Starting with the recognition that slavery is not conveniently something that happens to others; that occurs among the illiterate, barbarian and filthy masses, which are beyond any hope of being ‘civilised’. For none of us is clean. There is no merit in taking to social media and exposing the unethical behaviour of the rich at play at urban Pakistan’s most exclusive eateries, while the girl child in their ‘employment’ is forced to stand in a corner as if an exhibit in the freak shows of old. And there will be no merit as long as we continue to hire underage domestic staff far from the prying eyes of keyboard warriors out to share and shame, hash tag and retweet; as long as we continue to pay domestic workers below minimum wage, as long as we don’t engage in either verbal or written contracts with all those whom we employ. The absence of documentation of our misdeeds going viral is no guarantee that we are not guilty of the same, or even worse. *