UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has warned against the growing nexus between trans-national organized criminal gangs engaged in human trafficking and terrorists, saying their connection was of global concern as it bears on international peace and security.

“Conflict situations, through their confluence of circumstance and opportunity, provide an ideal environment for such unholy alliances,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said in a speech to the Security Council, while underscoring the need for cooperation to defeat their designs.

Speaking in a debate on trafficking in persons, forced labour, slavery and other similar conflict-situation practices, the Pakistani envoy said that heinous crimes like the enslavement of women and children and their recruitment in armed groups were an outrage not only to all norms of international law, but also to humanity itself.

“We must work together to find an end to this perversion,” she added.

Ambassador Lodhi said that Security Council resolution 2331 (2016) was significant as it was an unequivocal affirmation by the international community to confront trafficking in persons and a call for immediate action to prevent and criminalize those engaged in such menace.

While the eradication of contemporary forms of slavery was an end in itself, interdiction of trafficking-based financial flows to terrorist groups must also be addressed. As a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Pakistan had taken a number of legislative and administrative steps to address such phenomena.

Pointing to the increasing human displacement, the Pakistani envoy emphasized that as the international community sought to develop cohesive and coordinated strategies to manage those movements, the interest and well-being of the most vulnerable remained paramount in policy responses.

“We must, in particular, ensure that victims of circumstance, in their quest to find safety and protection beyond their borders, do not become fresh prey to trafficking and abuse,” she said, adding that Pakistan had lived this ideal by generously hosting Afghan refugees for almost four decades and ensuring safety of their new home.

Going forward, Ambassador Lodhi said, a fundamental challenge for the international community would be to strike the right balance between human rights and the law enforcement aspects of trafficking policies so that victims of anti-trafficking were protected, not penalized.

“Concerted efforts should also be made to address the underlying root causes,” she said. “Unless we resolutely put out the fires of wars and conflicts that breed and fuel these phenomena, our efforts will at best be spasmodic and insufficient.”