The National Assembly on Thursday passed Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act to check human trafficking.
Apparently the bill was passed amid report that the US State Department is considering putting Pakistan on a list of worst global offenders in human trafficking.
Pakistan has been on the US annual report’s Tier 2 “Watch List” for four years, the limit a country can remain at the second-to-worst ranking. Unless it is upgraded, Pakistan will drop to Tier 3, the lowest rung, alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria, among others.
This would trigger the suspension of civilian assistance, except for humanitarian and trade-related aid, unless Trump, who has been stridently critical of Pakistan, waives the penalties. A Tier 3 rating assesses that a country does not comply with minimum US standards against human trafficking.
According to the bill passed by the National Assembly, whosoever intentionally engages in or attempts to engage in the smuggling of migrants shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years but which shall not be less than three years and with fine up to one million rupees. All offences under this act shall be cognizable, non-bailable, and non compoundable .
The Federal Investigation Agency, or such other agency as may be specially empowered by the Government through notification in the official Gazette, shall be responsible for investigation of offences under this Act. They may cooperate with relevant authorities in Pakistan and in other countries of origin, transit and destination of smuggled migrants and make reciprocal arrangements after due administrative process to share, request and receive information relating to smuggling of migrants; and maintain liaison with all relevant national or international authorities, organizations, bodies, associations and societies and represent Pakistan.
The primary purpose of this Act is to prevent and combat smuggling of migrants. Since smuggling of migrants involves multiple international jurisdictions, cooperation between agencies within and amongst countries is necessary, reads the statement of objects and reasons of this bill.
It notes that Migrant smugglers take advantage of desperate people, many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life. Migrant smugglers place the lives and safety of smuggled migrants in grave danger.
This makes it incumbent upon the Government to ensure that those who engage in this inhuman crime are punished and that the rights of smuggled migrants are protected.
The Act has three important purposes and these are prevention and combating of smuggling of migrants, promotion and facilitation of national and international cooperation and protection of the rights of smuggled migrants.