FOCUS on Illegal Organ Trade: Pakistan

By Shamel Dishack
Staff Writer

Pakistan’s organ market poses a threat to the welfare of its population and continues to operate with no end in sight. Encompassing what many experts see as the biggest portion of the organ harvesting black market, the Pakistani market delivers promises of quick and easy funds for those who desperately need the money. Despite continued growth in Pakistan’s economy, increased income inequality pushes citizens toward more desperate means of providing for their families, reports Reuters. The market’s reach is not exclusive to Pakistan’s most impoverished regions. It is also visible in its most lucrative areas.

The Punjab province is the crown jewel of Pakistan’s agricultural production, yet is also the hotbed of the illegal organ trade, reports Reuters. Targeting impoverished farmers who are indebted to banks and feudal landlords, organ traffickers seduce these workers with promises of payment in exchange for their organs, most notably their kidneys. With the lucrative market taking a toll on workers, industry, and the general reputation of Pakistan, authorities and human rights groups continue their efforts to bring the organ trade down.

In 2010, the Pakistani government passed the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, prohibiting the buying and selling of organs for transplant in Pakistan. Although there are some exceptions to the law, it was designed to inhibit the number of organs that enter the market due to coercive measures, blackmail, or financial exploitation.

The law initially mitigated the flow of organs in and out of Pakistan, but with no change in demand, and with indebted workers still willing to supply, crime syndicates in Pakistan revamped their operations. Dubbed “Kidney Mafias”, these organ traffickers now seek to supply the international demand for organs, reports NPR. Kidney Mafias target the illiterate and impoverished, with reports indicating that victims are forced, abducted, and even imprisoned for their organs.

The market appears to be too lucrative to be let go of so easily, with even Western clients awaiting organs from Pakistan. In the United States and United Kingdom, where the waiting list for organ recipients are rarely satisfied, many citizens to the black market to purchase much-needed organs, reports the Tribune. Despite the fact that Pakistani authorities have cracked down on Western clients looking for the gift of life through the organ trade, the black market continues to satisfy in areas where our medical providers cannot.

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