Child Labor in Pakistan
Child labor defines as the employment of children who are younger than a legally specified age. However, some child domestic workers in Pakistan are still working under the worst form of child labor which deprives them of education. A lack of education contributes to the prevalence of poverty, which could otherwise help them change their socioeconomic standing. This article sheds light on child labor in Pakistan.

Top 10 Facts About Child Labor in Pakistan

  1. Child Labor: In Sindh Province, 21.5 percent of children ages 5 to 14 are working. About 11 million children in Pakistan perform domestic tasks and work in agriculture. Other children work alongside their families as bonded laborers in the brick industry. The use of this type of forced child labor in Pakistan happens in the brick, carpet and coal industries.
  2. Child Labor Laws: Regardless of Pakistan’s introduction of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1992, bonded labor still exists due to the country not having enough resources to enforce child labor laws. In 2018, labor law agencies have acted against child labor in Pakistan and are still working toward closing gaps that allow child labor to exist. According to the law, employers who use bonded labor risk punishment of imprisonment for a term of at least two years and a maximum of five years, or a fine of at least PKR 50,000 or both.
  3. Hazardous Work: Pakistan still has the worst form of child labor which includes hazardous work that can damage children’s health and development, or worse, put their lives at risk. Children working in carpet factories sometimes work up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and often sleep and eat at their place of work. Many children end up with eyesight and lung issues due to the amounts of dust they come in contact with on a daily basis.
  4. The Carpet Industry: UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) believes that children aged 4 to 14 make up to 90 percent of the carpet industry’s workforce. Workshop owners manipulate parents into believing that their children will learn new skills that outweigh any knowledge gained at school. Such manufacturers target children because they can pay them significantly less than adult weavers which allows them to compete with other companies by offering a quality product at a lesser price.
  5. The Employment of Children Act: To combat the worst form of child labor in Pakistan, more provinces are enforcing laws. The Employment of Children Act states that a child or adolescent cannot work more than seven hours a day which includes one hour of rest during that time. A child also cannot work between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. The minimum age for hazardous work is 14 years in Balochistan and ICT, and 18 years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh.
  6. Education: According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of children who do not attend school. Only 60.6 percent of children in Sindh Province between the ages of 5 to 14 attend school with 11.6 percent combining work and school. However, UNICEF is working on improving the number of children who attend school through studies, supporting provincial sector plan development, development of review of non-formal education policy and direct program implementation.
  7. The Sex Trade: Due to the prevalence of poverty, approximately 90 percent of the 170,000 street children in Pakistan work in the sex trade, an extreme form of child labor. The federal government in Pakistan convicted its first child pornography case after passing the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act in 2018. Pakistan has also approved the Prevention of Smuggling Migrants Act 2018 in order to protect victims who traffickers have smuggled to other countries.
  8. The ILO’s Child Labor Program: The ILO (International Labour Organization) is working through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, by assisting the government of Pakistan in the elimination of child labor. Pakistan has agreed to enforce laws based on the conventions of the ILO which include the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999. The ILO’s child labor program has carried out many successful initiatives that have helped rehabilitate child laborers by providing formal and non-formal education.
  9. Labor Inspectors: Data from 2017 shows that the number of active labor inspectors is likely less than what is necessary to review the entirety of Pakistan’s roughly 64 million workers. In 2018, the provincial government made efforts to increase the number of inspectors to better enforce child labor laws in Pakistan. With the ILO’s Strengthening Labor Inspection Systems in Pakistan project, labor inspectors in Punjab Province received training to help them with the enforcement of laws. Between January and August 2018, the Punjab Labor and Welfare Department found over 98 cases of child labor during inspections. Of those inspections, 63 of those child labor cases were in brick kiln establishments.
  10. Minimum Age Standards: At a federal level, the minimum age for hazardous work in Pakistan still does not meet international standards. However, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces meet the minimum age standards, above 18. Punjab Province also put a law into effect in early 2019 that bans domestic work for children under the age of 15.

Many children in Pakistan must work in order to pay off their familial debt or contribute to the familial monthly expenses, but the main cause for concern is that even after many advancements in 2018, the worst form of child labor still exists. With more resources to enforce child labor laws and consistency on a federal level, the world could see an end to the worst form of child labor in Pakistan.

– Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Pakistan
Pakistan, a nation of 197 million, has long been an ally of the U.S. and has come a long way in combatting corruption and graft within its government infrastructure. Nevertheless, the 21st century has seen corruption grip the country. Pakistan rates 33/100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Index (lower numbers = more corrupt and vice versa) and ranks 133/180 in terms of corruption. GAN states that corruption is a significant obstacle to all forms of business in Pakistan, regardless of whether the actor is a large multinational, an international NGO or a Pakistani corporation. Despite efforts by the national government and provincial legislatures to reduce corruption, it still presents a severe stumbling block to national growth. NGOs, despite the massive hurdles that corruption creates, have filled in the gap and begun working across the country to fight it. Anti-Corruption Force Organization Pakistan (ACFOP) is one such organization with chapters active in every province of Pakistan providing representation for the marginalized and a voice for those who have suffered monetarily and physically as a result of corruption in the system. With that, here are 10 facts about corruption in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Corruption in Pakistan

  1. Corrupt Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: The leak of the Panama Papers in 2016 revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children owned four offshore companies through which they laundered money and facilitated bribes. Sharif received 10 years in jail by Pakistan’s anti-graft court, while his daughter Maryam received a seven-year sentence.  Sharif also garnered a lifelong ban from politics, effectively ending his hopes of a political dynasty.
  2. Corruption in the Army: Pakistan’s Armed Forces has a long history of corruption. According to Shamil Sams, writing for DW, the Pakistani government manages its own budget and can increase it without civilian oversight. Army officials have engaged in illegal activities such as cross-border smuggling, illegal toll collection at military checkpoints, illegally levying funds from private businesses and extorting landowners in the Okara region.
  3. Corruption in Law Enforcement: The presence of police corruption in Pakistan is a daily reality for a shocking number of Pakistani citizens. According to the Michelsen Institute, almost 100 percent of correspondents to a Transparency International survey reported daily solicitation of bribes by police officials. Policemen in multiple provinces have received accusations of performing extra-legal killings and torturing detainees. There is even a phrase for the culture of corruption in the law enforcement field; Thana Culture, an Urdu-derived word for police station. Human Rights Watch indicates that there is a critical lack of political will to reform law enforcement in Pakistan and that there is a framework of legal protections that shield law enforcement officials from accountability.
  4. Corruption in the Judiciary: Bribery is incredibly commonplace in Pakistani courtrooms. The Michelsen Institute found that 96 percent of all correspondents who came into contact with the judiciary encountered corruption in 2006 and that 44 percent had to pay a bribe directly to a court official. The procedure to select judges on a national level is highly susceptible to political favors, and the judges themselves receive an exemption from an audit by the National Accountability Bureau. The PTI party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf/Pakistan Movement for Justice) has made judicial reform one of its targets now that it is the head of the ruling coalition. It is currently considering numerous reforms to the judiciary to combat rampant corruption.
  5. Corruption in Rail Transit: According to Pakistan Today, corruption and mismanagement in public transportation are exceedingly common. In a 2010-2011 audit, the Pakistani government concluded that the lion’s share of Pakistan Railways’ financial deficit was the result of embezzlement and wastage of funds. Following the audits, there were numerous investigations to provincial and national level transit administrations. Another high-profile surplus scandal in 2014 prompted another wave of investigations, with the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) spearheading the effort.
  6. Corruption in Public Utilities: Transparency International found that almost 64 percent of citizens surveyed established power in their home through alternative methods, all of which fall under the purview of corruption. These methods include payments to office staff and having to make repeated payments in order to get services. Ninety-five percent of these correspondents also reported additional corruption when it came time to pay the bills. ACFOP has been active in this field, advocating for the poor in provinces like Punjab and Balochistan and offering legal counsel in their struggles against utility companies as a part of their mission.
  7.  Corruption in Health Care: According to research from the University of Karachi, petty corruption in health care is an increasingly dire problem in Pakistan. Its research uncovered the widespread presence of corruption in hospitals servicing low-income communities. It also found that out of 342 people surveyed, one-third encountered corruption in the form of paying bribes during admissions. People paid these bribes to doctors, hospital staff and even nurses. ACFOP has taken to social media and the public sector to raise awareness of corruption in health care on the provincial and national levels.
  8. Corruption in Taxation: Transparency International reports that corruption is prevalent among bureaucrats that involve themselves in tax collection. Its research found that tax inspectors and officials accounted for 14 percent of bribes that the average consumer paid out in a year. NGOs like the ACFOP and Transparency International Pakistan are working across all provinces of Pakistan to fight corruption in tax collection by identifying cases of corruption and lobbying local governments.
  9. Cricket Corruption: Corruption is so prevalent in Pakistan that it has leached into its sports teams. In 2011, members of Pakistan’s national cricket team received a conviction of receiving bribes from a bookmaker and agreeing to underperform at the team’s match against the British cricket team during the Lord’s test match. The International Cricket Council banned the players along with bookmaker Mazhar Majeed, and the players received prison sentences.
  10. National Accountability Bureau: Others have even accused the National Accountability Bureau, which is an organization that emerged in 1999 to fight corruption. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan accused the NAB of mismanagement. According to DAWN, two mishandled cases, one involving finance officers stealing from bomb victims and another dealing with land misappropriation, drew the ire of the Supreme Court, which claimed that “This represents serious maladministration and want of proper procedures and supervision within NAB.”

Hopefully, these 10 facts about corruption in Pakistan illuminate a critical but often overlooked shortcoming of one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the Middle East. It is important for a wider audience to see these facts so that NGOs around the world can do their part to help the people of Pakistan.

– Benjamin Mair-Pratt
Photo: Flickr

HIV outbreak in Pakistan

When a child has a fever, most parents expect it to be a cold or a mild virus. Many parents in the Sindhi province of Pakistan did not anticipate receiving such a severe diagnosis, but the results from their doctors were alarming: their children tested positive for HIV. On April 24th, 2019, 14 cases of HIV were discovered. Since July, over 894 people tested positive for the disease and almost 750 of them were children. The outbreak in Pakistan has increased the pressure on medical professionals to treat hundreds of new cases and fear among the people of Pakistan is growing. Many are afraid to interact with others for fear of spreading or contracting the disease. Along with a heavy stigma surrounding HIV, growing skepticism around medical facilities in Pakistan has made treating this outbreak even more critical. Here’s what you should know about the HIV outbreak in Pakistan:

Poor sanitation methods contribute to the outbreak

In Pakistan, HIV is not an unfamiliar disease. In the Sindhi province alone, health authorities found around 75,000 HIV positive cases. For the most part, doctors have blamed many failures in the healthcare system to be the reason for this sudden outbreak among children.

This recent outbreak has been credited to the reuse of syringes and failure to follow proper procedures for blood transfusions. Some facilities that disposed of used syringes discovered that people were repackaging and selling them to doctors once again for profit. There have also been reports of reusing dextrose and saline drips in certain treatment facilities. These practices created an easy pathway for the disease to spread to many patients and eventually helped facilitate the HIV outbreak in Pakistan.

“Quack” doctors are popular options for patients, but not necessarily the safest

“Quack” doctors, cheap alternatives to qualified doctors, have grown in popularity in certain regions. Many families living in rural parts of Pakistan cannot travel long distances to cities to see qualified doctors. As populations have grown, governments are struggling to provide sufficient healthcare for all communities in the country. Unqualified quacks have arisen as a result, cashing in on the disparities by treating many patients. Because of a loophole in the system, quack doctors use real doctors’ names and qualifications as a cover for their business and then later pay a fee to the qualified doctors to remain open.

Around 70,000 to 80,000 unqualified practitioners have spread across Punjab province alone. Most quack doctors are either totally unqualified to treat patients, or they are operating beyond their expertise. Most are not allowed to prescribe medicines or use syringes, but it is a common practice for them to do so anyway on multiple patients to save money.

In addition to reusing syringes, these doctors often use veterinarian steroids to treat patients as an alternative to recommended medicines. These steroids mask a patient’s symptoms but do not provide long term solutions to the diseases. Overall, these quack doctors put more and more people at risk of contracting illnesses like HIV with their unsanitary practices.

Many organizations are working to address the outbreak effectively

Since the start of the outbreak in Pakistan, many organizations have been working to provide solutions and treatments. The Sindh Aids Control Program (SACP) began a campaign to treat new HIV patients and provide free tests to the public. They have also curated ways to respond to the outbreak effectively, emphasizing the need for low-cost treatment and prevention services for vulnerable regions, in order to make treatment accessible for all. Currently, roughly 8,866 people are registered with the SACP’s Enhanced HIV AIDS Control Program, and they are expanding their outreach after receiving $6.3 million dollars from the Sindh government to continue their efforts.

Additionally, health officials have begun a crackdown on quack clinics. The Punjab Healthcare Commission is one of the organizations investigating the quacks littered across the Sindh province. Around 47,000 quackery outlets have been visited as of this month, 21,640 have been closed down, 13,637 have been abandoned and 8,757 have been marked for surveillance. The hard work of this commission ensures that the quality of treatment in Pakistan prevents outbreaks similar to the one facing the country now.

While treatment efforts are a major priority for these global organizations, there has also been a major focus on strengthening community education. UNAIDS and other UN organizations are raising awareness about HIV prevention to help tackle the stigma and discrimination that HIV patients face in their communities. Health workers, religious leaders, and even local media personnel are also being invited to health education sessions to address this issue.

The HIV outbreak in Pakistan may have affected the lives of hundreds of children and adults, but the efforts of many organizations have led to a heavy focus on HIV education and treatment in Pakistan. With this influx of assistance from global organizations, thousands of families can be protected from a future epidemic for years to come.

-Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

ADB Helps Pakistan to Fight Poverty

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) helps Pakistan to fight poverty by pledging  $10 billion to Pakistan over the next 5 years for the purpose of infrastructure development, with the goal of improving important economic sectors that could revitalize regional trade. Two central areas of investment for the ADB will be water resource development and transportation infrastructure. Transportation infrastructure is an especially important focus area, as it undergirds the possibility of developing trade in other sectors of Pakistan’s economy. Water resource development will be crucial in continuing to sustain the agriculture sector and in ensuring that citizens have access to water. Here are some ways ADB helps Pakistan to fight poverty by addressing some major issues.

Trade and Transportation

While trade and poverty may appear to be separate, the economic growth prospects offered by expanding trade programs often spill over to effect poverty reduction. The positive gains in GDP growth result in increased capital coming into a country, which creates more opportunities for employment and access to markets. Since 2001, consistent yearly GDP growth in Pakistan, ranging from 1.7 percent to 7.5 percent has come alongside a 24.7 percent reduction in the number of Pakistanis living in extreme (less than $1.90 a day) poverty.

However, the poor transit system could have negative effects on the future of economic growth in Pakistan. Most of the nation’s railway system is over 100 years old and was built during the British colonial period. This has severely hampered the possibility of ramping up trade and industrial production, as only 4 percent of commerce can be shipped via rail. This has had a while GDP growth has been consistent, the share of growth caused by trade has declined, as the service industry, at 58.6 percent of GDP and agriculture sector at 24 percent both outpace the contributions of industrial production, which has declined from 22 percent of GDP to 19.3 percent. Moreover, the ADB estimates that 2 percent of GDP is lost annually due to poor transportation infrastructure.

In response to this, the ADB has announced plans to invest in providing more locomotives, increasing the overall prospects for shipping capabilities by rail, and has also invested in updating railway lines, as well as improving north-south highways for travel via motor vehicles.

Water Resource Development

Water resource development is another way ADB helps Pakistan fight poverty. This is not to suggest that agriculture is unimportant, as in some cases, agricultural development is integral to the maintenance of local economic growth, offering a means of mitigating the worst impacts of poverty. This is especially true of Balochistan, a province that faces severe water scarcity, impacting both the living standards of the population and the local economy. Agricultural production requires massive levels of water to operate successfully, and with 60 percent of the population employed in agriculture, the impact of water scarcity on poverty is compounded by pressing economic concerns.

As a result of water scarcity in Quetta, the provincial headquarters of Balochistan, many tube-wells were installed in order to redirect water from rural areas to provide water to the urban areas. This program has produced a massive strain on the population of Balochistan, eliminating access for water for both drinking and for use in agricultural production, with poor water resource management producing a scenario in which one portion of the population is only able to access the water by depriving another.

However, the ADB is seeking to combat this water scarcity by protecting watersheds and building 276 kilometers of new irrigation channels, to support agricultural production. Watersheds will prevent soil erosion, and increase water storage capabilities in the region, while irrigation channels will assist in combating the scarcity brought on by tube-wells. Beyond its use for irrigation, these programs will also be important for developing methods of helping increase access to water in the region, which some estimate could have a profound impact on increasing women’s access to water.

Conclusion

Water scarcity and poor transportation infrastructure have hindered effective economic development in Pakistan, limiting the prospects for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The influx of capital offered by expanding networks for regional trade promises to offer new avenues for employment and sustainable income for Pakistanis living in poverty. Water resource management will provide new avenues for managing agricultural development, ensuring stable irrigation routes and providing overall water security.

Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

Curing Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan
In 1988, polio existed in more than 100 countries and infected close to 1,000 children daily. Due to advocacy efforts and the implementation of preventable vaccinations, cases of polio have significantly dropped at a rate of 99 percent. In 1988, about 350,000 children had polio while statistics indicated that in 2017, only 22 documented illnesses existed. However, children are still struggling as Pakistan and Afghanistan attempt to eliminate polio their countries.

Children are most vulnerable to contracting polio between birth and age five. One in 200 contagions result in irreparable paralysis, most commonly in the legs; five to 10 percent of those infected die from this disease due to the disabling of their breathing muscles.

Most children that are living with polio do not experience manifestations; however, polluted water and food can still spread the disease. Polio is preventable through several doses of vaccinations, but there is no treatment.

Modernized Vaccines to Prevent Polio

In 2013, all countries began to implement one dose of the new vaccines and terminate the use of the oral vaccines by 2018, which the Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan instructed.

In order to eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan is terminating the administrations of oral vaccines which only protected against type 2 of the virus; instead, Afghanistan and Pakistan are implementing doses of the inactivated polio vaccine, which should be more effective in preventing the disease as it prevents all three types of polio. The modern vaccine can also enhance immunity and inhibit further epidemics of polio.

Efforts to Eliminate Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan

In 2018, The Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan partnered with UNICEF and The World Health Organization to initiate the country’s third nation-wide polio vaccination campaign. Nearly 9.9 million children below age five received the vaccination.

Regions such as Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul contained nearly 1.2 million children who did not have access to the vaccine. However, this past program and future programs will ensure that these children can also receive the necessary dosages.

Vaccinated children also received Vitamin A capsules to strengthen their immunity and decrease diarrhea. This also strengthened their immune systems from respiratory infections. Immunity can increase their chances of survival by nearly 24 percent. Nearly 70,000 health workers visited every household to administer vaccinations. This was to ensure that other children received the preventable medication as well. Because polio is contagious, each family’s chances of surpassing the disease increases if every child receives a vaccination.

In Pakistan, the number of polio infections is at a low rate. Further, improved immunity has also begun to increase. While this country has made progress in battling polio, many children have not received the preventable vaccines in high-risk areas. Therefore, Pakistan has begun to implement various solutions such as customized vaccines. Additionally, the country has partnered with the Emergency Operations Centers to administer effective prevention techniques.

Polio is most common in Karachi as well as the federally administered tribal areas, the Quetta block and the Khyber-Peshawar corridor. While the disease is highly present in these areas, other areas nationwide are susceptible to contracting the virus due to travel and migration.

The Partnership Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

To eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two nations plan on partnering to identify children who are vulnerable to the disease and provide vaccinations, while also administering health campaigns to promote advocacy about the prevention of polio. Environmental surveillance has discovered the presence of polio. This serves as evidence that children with weaker immune systems are present in these areas. Consequently, this enables the disease to grow and infect other children.

– Diana Dopheide

Photo: Flickr

 Abandoned Infants in PakistanAt just over a month old, Fatima was given away on live television. Fatima is just one of many children orphaned in Pakistan after being abandoned in trashcans and dirty alleyways. Placed in piles of rubbish, these infants are dying by the hundreds every year. On his show, “Amaan Ramzan,” Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain famously gives away cars and other luxury items to families in need. However, the show made world news after giving Fatima and another baby girl to a family who are unable to have children. As he explains, “These children are not a part of garbage, are not a part of trash, so we took these children from the garbage, from the trash and delivered them to the needy people, the needy parents.” Fatima’s new mother, Tanzeem Ud Din, said that she hopes the show will help encourage others to adopt children in need.

While the cause of the trend to abandon children remains unknown, many have their theories. One father who adopted two of these afflicted children and wishes to remain unnamed said, “it could be people not wanting children, women on their own or a couple that did not go through with an abortion.” He says religious belief plays a great roll in this. Many perish in the litter before they can be rescued. The lucky ones make it to orphanages dedicated to helping abandoned children. The father described his visit to the orphanage he adopted from sites of children with fear on their faces, crying because they had been dropped off two days ago when their mother died and their father left to remarry. Many of the children here live without a birth certificate or any paperwork for identification.

While the situation is horrific, many are working on solutions that will help save these children’s lives.

  1. Improvements to legislation: According to Director of the Imkaan Welfare Organization, Tahera Hasan, “Solutions don’t lie with philanthropic institutions and they never will. We are literally a drop in the ocean as far as the larger landscape is concerned.” In 2016, the Upper House of Parliament passed its first-ever bill to help abandoned children. Un-attended Orphans Rehabilitation and Welfare Act was written to protect the rights of orphaned children and ensure housing, education and healthcare.
  2. Decreasing poverty rates throughout Pakistan: According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015–2016, 39 percent of the population lives in poverty. In contrast, the country has a total fertility rate of 2.55, according to the CIA Factbook, putting it at number 76 for world fertility rates. As a comparison, the United States is 142 on this list. Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms says poverty reduction is one of the main objectives of Pakistan’s Vision 2025.
  3. Improving adoption services: According to Hasan, “There is no formal structure for adoption in place here, it is not recognized by the state.” Hansan is dedicated to the support of families adopting in Pakistan with the Imkaan Welfare Organization. Adoption remains mainly unregulated in Pakistan, with no paperwork for these children.

Social worker Ramzan Chippa said, “Parents who are adopting babies want healthy babies.” However, many orphaned children are described as severely mentally ill, one father even noticing a boy tied up in his orphanage to prevent him from taking bites out of his own arm. As a result, organizations such as Imkaan Welfare Organization are necessary to help these children become adoptable and find homes to be placed in.

The unnamed adoptive father referred to the child crisis in Pakistan as “unfinished business.” For countless children abandoned in dumpsters and litter, that is what their life is. Until Pakistan can adequately care for the thousands of unwanted children born every year, their existence will seem unfinished as they are homeless, purposeless and without a family.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

negative impact of regional instability
India and Pakistan have had a long and tumultuous history that the global community is witnessing play out on the world stage to this day. This history is an example of the negative impact of India and Pakistan’s regional instability. While a fortified wall separates these two countries now, they and their majority Muslim and Hindu populations were living harmoniously at one time, although it was also oppressively under British colonial rule.

History Between India and Pakistan

The partition between India and Pakistan involved the forced migration as a result of the British empire’s reckless geopolitical mismanagement. People began to realize that colonialism was soon losing ground following the catastrophe that befell Great Britain during the Second World War–and the British colony of India would soon become successful acquisitions of sovereignty and independence. Tasked with creating the new geographic lines that would separate the Hindu and Muslim populations, British lawyer Sir Cyril Radcliffe would inadvertently cause one of the worst forced migration crises in human history, including the deaths of more than 1 million people and the displacement of another 14 million.

When it became clear that the new state of India would form with a majority Hindu population and leadership, millions of Muslim refugees fled the now free country of India to Pakistan seeking peace and were hoping to quell their fears of political and economic repression. Many of the Hindu population living in Pakistani territory would soon follow suit and migrate to India for the same reasons.

India and Pakistan’s regional instability is negative and the chaos that ensues when millions must become refugees and migrate out of their homes and communities and away from their family, friends and the only lives they have ever known. Partition would create a humanitarian crisis of food shortages, economic instability and violence during its 1947 unraveling.

Not only have the geographical lines been under scrutiny since their drawings, for their awkward placements and razor-like cuts through established communities, it also gave birth to a heavily fortified border wall. Each evening at the now-famous border checkpoint, inhabitants from both Pakistan and India are welcome to witness a surreal performance showcasing each nation’s military strength – there is a crescendo when the border gate is open, briefly and military members from each nation perform a rehearsed dance with one another to the pleasure of the audience.

Trade Between India and Pakistan

The Economist once described India and Pakistan as “natural trading partners.” However, due to political and social tensions between the two countries, due mostly to perceptions of political and security hostilities, with both nations deeming attacks of terrorism to have state sponsorship and encouragement, these regional partners have been unable to grasp and cultivate mutual economic benefits.

While trade does exist between the two countries, it is only $2.4 billion compared to the potential $37 billion that the countries could make if there were no tariff barriers, according to the World Bank.

And while India is a vast country in both population and resources, which have played to its economic strengths, Pakistan has been less than fortunate, plagued by high inflation and domestic debt. Therefore, from the point of view of Pakistan, the political and security volatility puts a tremendous strain on what and who is there. Also, it has become more likely that the working-class of Pakistan would garner most of the economic hurt as a direct result of steep custom responsibilities that India imposed.

Pakistan is not able to suffer the repeated economic blows that will come from prolonged conflicts with India. As of this writing, Pakistan’s economy is shambolic and not prone to swift economic recovery. This is having far-reaching negative impacts, not only on the economy but on economic development as well. Pakistan is unable to make long-game, much-needed investments in its country and must rely heavily on foreign aid.

As two developing countries with a combined 2 million people living in abject poverty, it would be beneficial to both nations to commit to an era of de-escalation. In addition to this, both countries are struggling with high numbers of unemployment and necessary funds that could come from easing economic and political tensions to go towards projects and divisions for development, such as health and education.

While India and Pakistan’s regional instability is currently palpable on this Indian subcontinent, the tensions that have experienced countless rises and freefalls for over 70 years, have the potential to stabilize for good. An eye to mutual understanding and cooperation will help ensure that there are lasting and vast positive economic, social and political effects.

Connor Dobson
Photo: Flickr

 

Human Trafficking in Pakistan
At only 15 years of age, a Pakistani girl named Zunaira Muhammad was forced into slavery and this was the price she paid for her dreams of becoming a software engineer and having an education. This happened when a kindly neighbor promised to pay for Zunaira’s education if she would come live with her and do some household chores. Unwittingly, Zunaira’s mother agreed. Zunaira went to live with her neighbor, Ayesha Ashfaq. Instead of providing a little girl with an education, Ashfaq lured Zunaira to Dubai, forced her to work in a beauty parlor, sold her into sex slavery, and tortured her when she resisted. After she managed to escape she said that her whole life is destroyed as she cannot pursue studies due to the stigma attached to her.

Zunaira is only one story among millions of young people, especially young girls, who are kidnapped, trafficked and sold into slavery around the world. There are about 46 million people living in slavery today, and over 3 million of them are enslaved in Pakistan, making it rank eight in the Global Slavery Index. In the text below, the top five facts to know about human trafficking in Pakistan are presented.

Five Facts About Human Trafficking in Pakistan

  1. In 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report, Pakistan was upgraded in Tier 2 by the U.S. Department of State. This means that the government of Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is still making significant efforts to do so. For example, the government increased the number of victims it identified and intensified its investigations into sex trafficking and prosecutions of human trafficking workers. At the same time, the government efforts are inadequate compared to the scale of the problem. The biggest issue is corrupt officials. However, the government does not hold officials accountable or investigate into allegations of trafficking by officials. These problems, along with the extent of human trafficking in Pakistan, keep Pakistan at Tier 2.
  2. Pakistan’s largest human trafficking problem is bonded labor. During bonded labor, a worker assumes an initial debt, but as they work, the debt gets bigger and bigger so they can never pay it off. In this way, it entraps other family members, sometimes lasting for generations. Other human trafficking problems in Pakistan include prostitution slavery, forced marriages, child soldiers, manual labor and forced begging. Forced begging is a situation in which traffickers make children beg on the streets to earn money, sometimes even maiming them to gain sympathy money. Trafficking rings have a structured system in place for each of these crimes, including selling victims in a physical market.
  3. In 2012, 823 victims of human trafficking in Pakistan sought help in shelters. Three-quarters of these victims were female and 60 of them were minors. According to Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, 30 to 35 traffickers operate in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province. In 2012, 40 officials were under investigation, one was dismissed, and 33 were punished for complicity in human trafficking. Currently, the estimated number of Pakistani people living in slavery is 3,186,000. This means that almost 17 out of every 1,000 people in Pakistan live in slavery, while 74 people out of every 100 are vulnerable to slavery.
  4. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) joined the European Union (EU) to launch The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants Act (GLO.ACT) in 2017. Pakistan joined this program in July 2017. This project will include six responses: strategy and policy development, legislative assistance, capacity building, regional and trans-regional cooperation, protection and assistance to victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants and assistance and support to children among victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants. The GLO.ACT also includes a public awareness campaign. To raise awareness, whether as a warning or as a call to action, UNODC distributed 300,000 flyers and 80,000 posters throughout the four districts of Punjab and Balochistan, where most trafficking takes place.
  5. The U.S. Department of State also recommended actions for Pakistan, led by the plea to pass an anti-trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of human trafficking. If Pakistan takes these actions, such as implementing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to rehabilitation services, they can start to move to Tier 1, which means that a country does meet minimum standards for human trafficking.

Though many trafficking victims live without hope, there can be light at the end of the tunnel. With help from organizations and governments such as UNODC and the U.S. Department of State, human trafficking in Pakistan will continue to decrease. As for a young girl from the beginning of the article, she, despite her fear of traffickers, still plans to defy the odds and apply for college, and her father promised to help her purchase books in the market on his meager salary. Her story is one of redemption, and hope for the future of Pakistan.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria - The Final Three
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It is a devastating disease that primarily impacts children and it can survive in the wild, but not for long without a human host. There is no cure, therefore, immunization is the foundation for eradication efforts. Today, polio is almost entirely eradicated from the planet.

Global immunization campaigns have made terrific progress in decreasing wild poliovirus (WPV) cases by over 99 percent in the past 30 years, down from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 29 reported cases in 2018. While more work needs to be done, the world is closing in on the virus and all eyes are on polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria- the three final endemic countries. In the text below, the status of polio in these three countries is presented.

Polio Eradication in Afghanistan

Between the three countries listed above, in 2018 the most global polio cases were reported in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan is the only endemic country not currently battling vaccine-derived polio, a form that can paralyze, in addition to WPV, which is a victory. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), in conjunction with Afghanistan’s Emergency Operation Centres, has dedicated continuing high-priority surveillance and instituted an aggressive immunization campaign to eradicate WPV in order to protect those most affected.

In November 2018, the country concluded an immunization campaign that targeted over five million children in the highest-risk provinces. These accomplishments are impressive, but at the same time fragile, because every single child must be vaccinated in this rapidly growing country. The Emergency Operation Centres are continuing to work under a National Emergency Action Plan and with local communities to ensure that all children are consistently reached now and in the future.

Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Polio could be eliminated from Pakistan this year, with continued strategic implementation. A vaccination campaign in December reached nearly 40 million children and the number of reported cases in the country is the lowest it has ever been. The race to the finish line requires continued focus on immunity gaps in high-risk and mobile communities, especially those that are close to the places where the virus is still indigenous, as well as continued accountability and high childhood vaccination rates.

Additionally, several of the endemic polio regions remain on the border with Afghanistan, which will require the two countries to continue addressing these WPV strongholds together. This region highlights the continued global threat of a virus that transcends geopolitical boundaries.

Polio Eradication in Nigeria

While WPV has never stopped circulating in Nigeria, there have not been any WPV cases since 2016. This is a terrific start towards wild polio eradication, but Nigeria has seen years without a WPV outbreak in the past only to see it return. The country is also managing continued vaccine-derived outbreaks. While immunization is paramount to eradication, some forms of the vaccine can infect patients and cause an outbreak. Though this adds a complex level to eradication strategies, immunization remains the most viable solution.

Currently, a variety of innovative solutions are underway to reach children in high-risk areas, including international immunization campaigns in the Lake Chad Basin whenever security permits, market vaccinations and seeking out nomadic communities. Similar to Afghanistan and Pakistan, continued efforts remain focused on closing immunity gaps, vaccinating all children and working with the country’s neighbors, but additional support for political and financial commitment is needed in Nigeria.

Going Forward

Wild polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria is almost complete, but there are several challenges facing major vaccination efforts. In order to achieve elimination, every single child needs to be immunized. Even one unvaccinated child leaves the entire world at risk of infection.

There are, however, real challenges to this seemingly straightforward goal. Barriers like reaching children in mobile populations or in active conflict zones require international political coordination and more resources for mobile and stationary vaccination teams. Another major barrier is vaccine-derived polio cases, which threaten populations that don’t currently see polio in the wild. Research into the implications of adjusting the vaccine are underway and seek to address eliminating the spread of vaccine-derived infection.

It will not be possible to eradicate every disease with vaccination. Polio is one of the ones that can be. As global health efforts target polio eradication in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, the world will likely be able to list polio next to smallpox and rinderpest on the coveted list of globally eradicated diseases.

– Sarah Fodero

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan
Pakistan may have South Asia’s second-largest economy but it fares considerably worse than its neighbors when it comes to tackling hunger. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Pakistan.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan

  1. Out of the total of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index of 2016, Pakistan ranked 78th. The country scored 47.8, lagging behind longtime rival India and several other African countries.
  2. According to the World Food Programme, 43 percent of Pakistan’s population faces food insecurity. Of this number, 18 percent of people in Pakistan severely lack access to food. This is linked to the fact that most of these people are heavily dependent on agriculture for a living.
  3. Pakistan has one of the most malnourished and poorest regions in the world. which is Tharparkar region in the Sindh province. Most of the region is desert land, with the majority of inhabitants depending on seasonal rainfall.
  4. In the province of Sindh, 50 percent of children below 5 years old are stunted and 19 percent are severely malnourished. The region’s intense food insecurity stems from lack of investment in the infrastructure and population coupled with the flood that hit Sindh especially hard.
  5. Pakistan ranked 106 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) with a score of 32.6, second only to Afghanistan in the region. The GHI is calculated according to four primary indicators: the proportion of the malnourished population, the frequency of child mortality, stuntedness of children and height to weight ratios of children.
  6. Agriculture in Pakistan is riddled with corruption. In September 2009, the government announced the “Benazir Tractor Scheme”. It was presented to the masses as a random computerized lottery that would award tractors to randomly selected small-scale farmers across the country. However, it turned out that the winners had suspiciously already had large acres of land and some were even related to the parliamentarians.
  7. Most of the budget is spent on issues of national security, rather than fighting hunger. Islamabad devoted $2 billion to security expenditures at a time when many poor Pakistanis were suffering the effects of sky-high inflation.
  8. The number of malnourished Pakistanis has increased since the early 1990s from 24 million to 45 million in 2008. Most of the population is suspected to be extremely lacking both Vitamin A and Vitamin D consumption due to fish, egg yolk and cod liver being in short supply.
  9.  Pakistan has also been heavily dependent on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that have demanded from the country to cut back on public spending in the 1980s, which affected food subsidies.
  10. There is an organization called Action Against Hunger that is working to fight food insecurity in Pakistan by addressing malnutrition and mitigating the effects and causes of hunger. They ran the Woman and Infant/Child Improved Nutrition in Sindh in 2017 as well as operating outpatient therapeutic programs in Daud, Khairpir, Matiari and Ghotki districts.

Pakistan does have a long way to go before fully addressing the extent of the problem but it certainly has the impetus and ability to change the way it prioritizes food insecurity and hunger.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr