There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. However, the recent findings that place Pakistan among the top five countries which account for 58 percent of world population living in slavery firmly refutes this notion – we have been blatantly allowing the privileged to exploit the weak.

The 2016 Global Slavery Index, a research report by the Walk Free Foundation, drew attention to the fact that more than 45 million men, women and children globally are trapped in modern slavery, far more than previously thought. India, in first place on the list, was followed by China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and then Uzbekistan – a list we should be ashamed to top.

Modern slavery pertains to situations of exploitation that a person cannot leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception. Worryingly, the report suggested that there were 28 percent more slaves than estimated two years ago, a revision reached through better data collection and research methods.

Some 124 countries have criminalised human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol and 96 have developed national action plans to coordinate the government response. However, these are only small steps in the overall fight against slavery, which the world is clearly losing.

Much of our own population toils every day under inhuman conditions in brick kilns, in fields, in factories across the country, deprived of even the most basic rights, in order to render the lives of the rest more comfortable.

It is not that Pakistan lacks legislation to address the issue. The Constitution prohibits slavery, forced labour and child labour. A law banning bonded labour, the most common form of slavery in Pakistan, has been in force since 1992. The problem, as always, is that the powerful profit from the fruits of slavery, and the cultural acceptance of ‘traditions’ makes sure that the status quo remains undisturbed.

We are all responsible for the most appalling situations where modern slavery exists and the despairing desolation it brings upon our fellow human beings. Pakistan on its part, needs to start implementing the laws it made for the protection of its people.