Trafficking of Afghan and Pakistani girls to Gulf states
The Friday Times, May 9, 2001
A report says Pakistan is the destination point for girls being trafficked into the country from Bangladesh, Burma, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States. It is also the transit point for girls brought in from Far East Asia and Bangladesh before being smuggled into the Gulf states. The report also says the country has become a recruiting ground for Pakistani and Afghan girls who are bought here and taken to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The North West Frontier Province is witnessing a steady rise in cases of women trafficking for prostitution purposes, reveal surveys done by some NGOs. While the majority of the girls forced into the trade is Afghan, the number of native girls is also on the rise.
Last year, a survey conducted by Aurat Foundation, an NGO working on women’s rights, brought to surface 39 cases of women trafficking in the NWFP. However, the Foundation spokesperson told TFT the survey was not comprehensive. “It is extremely difficult to unearth all such cases for a host of reasons,” she says.
Investigations confirm that Peshawar, Chitral, Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda, Swat and Bannu districts top the list in the sale and purchase of girls as young as 13-year-olds. While some are taken to the Punjab after being “married off” and abused, in most cases they end up in the Gulf states for prostitution purposes.
Sources say the seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that a top intelligence agency has been asked to conduct investigations into the business. As recently as August 16, the police arrested an Afghan girl and her pimp at Peshawar airport after being tipped off by this agency.
The man, Murtaza Wasee, is a resident of Saadat Colony in Karachi and has been booked on the charge trafficking young girls. Misbahuddin, the coordinator of Citizen Action Committee for Women’s Rights in Charsadda district, told TFT that last year two cases were reported when girls sold out to parties in the Punjab fled their captors and came back. This year, three other cases of girls trafficked to Punjab have been reported in the district.
In some instances, interested parties take advantage of the poverty of the parents and the tradition among some tribes of selling off girls for a price. Some reported cases reveal the girls were married off to one person who then used them to entertain other customers.
In the federally administered Mohmand Agency, brokers have traditionally organized a fair where parents bring their girls and the clients pick them up on the basis of beauty, age and such other factors. The fair was declared illegal a few years back but it continues on the sly in many areas of the Agency.
“Parents bring their daughters to the fair where buyers pick up the best merchandise,” a source at Ghalanai, headquarters of Mohmand Agency, told TFT earlier this month.
A ‘Situational Analysis’ on trafficking of Women and Children in Pakistan by ActionAid Pakistan says the issue is grave and complex and needs to be addressed at various levels. The report says Pakistan is the destination point for girls being trafficked into the country from Bangladesh, Burma, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States. It is also the transit point for girls brought in from Far East Asia and Bangladesh before being smuggled into the Gulf states. The report also says the country has become a recruiting ground for Pakistani and Afghan girls who are bought here and taken to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Police officials confirm these findings. A senior police officer from the Crimes Branch told TFT that scores of Afghan girls are trafficked to five-star hotels in Dubai every month. “Dubai is where girls from various countries, including Eastern Europe and Russia, end up,” he said. This fact was confirmed by TFT last year during a brief stay by one of its reporters at one of the five-start hotels in Dubai. The hotel’s discotheque was teeming with girls who were being picked up by clients.
In the case of girls trafficked from NWFP, the passports are prepared at Darra Adamkhel located in the Orakzai Agency on Peshawar-Kohat Road. Darra is also famous for arms manufacture and smuggling.
Sources in Kabul told TFT that most upper-class Afghan women in that city have taken to prostitution since falling upon bad days. “Of course, the trade goes on surreptitiously. It’s the same situation in Herat and the Mazar,” he said.
Senior police officers admit the trafficking cannot go on without the collusion of certain law enforcement officials. “There are many factors involved here. Of course there is the element of corruption. But there is also the element of poverty and greed of the parents who are prepared to accept money from unknown people and marry off their daughters to strangers. There is nothing the police can do if it looks like a lawful wedding,” says a senior officer.
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