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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Pakistan

The Constitution of Pakistan includes a catalog of fundamental rights. However, there is no article that frames ‘right to environment’ as a fundamental right. Despite no specific provision on environmental protection, Pakistan’s Environmental Policy is based on a participatory approach to achieving objectives of sustainable development through legally, administratively and technically sound institutions. For example, in 1975, The Federal Environment Ministry was established, promulgating various environmental protection ordinances which will be discussed below.

Featured Legislation

1965: West Pakistan’s Fisheries Rules were promulgated, consisting of six Parts and eight Appendixes which establish the requirements to obtain a fishing license (within inland and marine waters) issued by the Directors and all related activities. Part II specifies license requirements, such as duration of validity of a license; area to which a license extends; and kinds of fishing gear permitted.

1970: The Water Pollution Control Ordinance (No. V) was ratified. The Ordinance provides for the establishment of the East Pakistan Water Pollution Control Board (sect. 3). The Board will be responsible for the formulation of policies for the abatement of water pollution, including coastal waters (sect. 5). The Chief Engineer, Public Health Engineering, who is a member of the Board, shall be responsible for implementation measures (sect. 6).

1997: The Environmental Protection Act was issued. This Act principally makes provision for administration of matters affecting the environment and, marginally, for environmental impact assessment and the handling of hazardous matters. It also defines environmental offenses and prescribes penalties for those offenses.

2000: The Environmental Protection Agency (Review of IEE and EIA) Regulations were created. These Regulations provide the lists of projects that require an initial environmental examination (IEE) and of projects that require an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

2005: Pakistan’s Biosafety Rules were passed. These Rules provide for the manufacture, import and storage of microorganisms; work involved in the field of genetically manipulated plants, animals and microorganisms; and the import, export, sale and purchase of living modified organisms. Rules 4 to 9 deal with matters related to the establishment of a National Biosafety Committee, a Technical Advisory Committee and Institutional Biosafety Committee and their functions.

2007: The Council of Research in Water Resources Act was approved. This Act consists of 29 sections, establishing the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources. This Council shall be a body having perpetual succession with its headquarter in Islamabad. The functions of the Council shall be to: a) conduct, organize, coordinate and promote research on all aspects of water resources including irrigation, drainage, reclamation, navigation, drinking water, industrial water, and sewerage management.

2012: The Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Act (No. XIV) was voted in. This Act consists of 29 sections, establishing the requirements to be satisfied for export, re-export and import into Pakistan of any wild fauna and flora included in the Appendixes of the Convention, except as provided under section 5, 6, 7 and 9. Such trade shall be through a customs port of exit or entry, and subject to any other law relating to control on export and import for the time being in force.

2017: The Climate Change Act was brought into force. This Act consists of 19 sections divided into five Chapters, establishing the requirements to meet Pakistan’s obligations under international conventions relating to climate change and address the effects of climate change.

2018: The ​​Pakistan Water Charter was formulated. This joint Declaration of the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Ministers of the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan is a call to action to solve the water shortage crisis and to mitigate climate change impact, and is a declaration of emergency. It pledges top priority to the water sector and development spending for the water sector, with judicious distribution of resources including disaster management.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) serves as an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering, terror financing, financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. A 2021 report entitled “Money Laundering from Environmental Crimes” explores environmental crimes as part of a broader criminal enterprise engaged in criminal activities such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, corruption and tax evasion as well as terrorist activities. Pakistan is a member of the Asia Pacific Group and is currently working with FATF and to address strategic deficiencies in addressing money laundering traced to select environmental crimes that include illegal logging, illegal land clearing, illegal mining and waste trafficking. Pakistan has recognized the need to enhance existing regulatory frameworks because according to Global Forest Watch, the country lost 9.68 kilometers/hectare per annum of trees from 2001-2020, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa being the most affected by deforestation. An investigation has revealed that illegal waste traffickers have faked clearance certificates, posing tremendous challenges for law enforcement. What is more,  legal loopholes abound as a result of a growing lack of political will alongside bribery, corruption, redundant bureaucratic red-tapism, complex corporate structures, falsification of concession licenses as well as origin certificates. Pakistan is also known for another practice commonly referred to as trade-based money laundering (TBML): environmental crimes deal heavily with raw materials, and trade-based fraud conceals the movement of money across borders, “cleaning” the proceeds from the crime by taking the form of false invoicing of the goods, and the mislabeling of hazardous waste.

References and Further Reading


Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change: