Pakistan has “categorically” rejected inclusion of its name in the US State Department’s “Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA)” list.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Friday terming it “unsubstantiated and baseless” inclusion of Pakistan in the list published under a domestic US legislation in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2021.
The statement said: “Pakistan does not support any non-state armed group; nor any entity recruiting or using child soldiers. Pakistan’s efforts in fighting non-state armed groups, including terrorist entities, are well recognised. The inclusion of Pakistan in the CSPA List depicts a factual error and lack of understanding. No State institution was consulted by the US prior to the publication of the report. Nor were any details provided of the basis on which the conclusion was reached.
“Overall, on the issue of Trafficking in Persons, Pakistan is committed to fighting this scourge both at the national and international levels. We have taken a range of legislative and administrative actions in that regard during the last one year, including the approval of Rules under the domestic Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Acts; National Action Plan 2021-25 prepared jointly by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and enhancement of capacity building and inter-agency cooperation of Law Enforcement Agencies involved in anti-human smuggling.
“Pakistan has been voluntarily submitting information for the TIP Report to the US government since 2007 and has actively worked on implementing the practicable recommendations of these reports.
“Pakistan calls upon the authorities concerned in the United States to review the baseless assertions made in the TIP Report, especially with regard to the unwarranted inclusion of Pakistan in the CSPA List. Pakistan also expects the sharing of ‘credible information’ on cases involving Trafficking in Persons as well as on allegations pertaining to support to armed groups using child soldiers.
“Pakistan’s views and perspective on the subject have been conveyed to the US side. Pakistan would continue to remain engaged with the US government through bilateral channels for constructive dialogue on all issues of mutual interest,” the statement concluded.
THE CSPA LIST: The United States issued annual Trafficking in Persons report on Thursday according to which Pakistan and Turkey have been added to Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list, a designation that could lead to strict sanctions on military assistance and listed countries’ participation in peacekeeping programmes.
The designation is included in the US State Department’s annual report ranks countries in various tiers in accordance with their efforts for eliminating trafficking.
The 2021 CSPA list includes Afghanistan, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen.
Congo, Somalia, and Yemen have appeared on every CSPA list since 2010, when the designation started. Nine others — Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Burma, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Syria — have appeared more than once over the last 10 years.
Six governments were identified on the first CSPA list in 2010.
Ten years later, the list more than doubled to 14 countries and to 15 in 2021 — the highest number of countries ever identified in a single year. This year’s list includes repeat offenders, two one new additions — Pakistan and Turkey — and some renewed appearances that were previously removed.
The statement, issued by the State Department in Washington, defines the term “child soldier” as: Any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces.
Those compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces are also included as are those under 15 years of age who have been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces, police or other security forces.
Any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state is also considered a child soldier.
The term “child soldier” is also applied to a person who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role, such as a “cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave”.