Slavery to Freedom - 2010 Project Report


    Slavery for debt bondage still remains as one of the most persistent social problems in Pakistan today. Those debts average around 1,000 Pakistani rupees — roughly £8. The hostages, a third of whom are children, some as young as months old, are landless peasants, known as haari in Urdu. A 2004 study by the International Labor Office (ILO) estimated that there are up to a million haari families in Sindh alone, the majority living in conditions of debt bondage, which the U.N. defines as modern-day slavery. Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper claims that landlords hold millions of forced laborers in 'private prisons' across the country.

    While the nation's 1992 Bonded Labor System Act mandates five-year sentences for violators, Pakistani officials have yet to record a single conviction. The police are turning a blind eye on the issue. However, bonded families rarely press their rights because of the overwhelming influence of the landlords in local politics, the threat of retaliation and their families' dependence on the landlords for survival.

    Another newspaper report discloses a new system of slavery that has emerged in the brick kilns industry in Punjab province in recent years. These kilns employ bonded labor, slaves in other words to work inhuman hours for pittance. These kilns employ the Peshgi system of payment in which the kiln owner gives advance payment upon hiring/buying a new slave, which the slave pays off for the rest of his life or until the kiln owner sees fit. These workers are restricted from leaving these kilns by force and are incarcerated in private jails along with their entire families if they resist. The repayment is also according to the kiln owners whims as most of these poor slaves do not even know how to count or deduct amounts. They just toil away endlessly.

    It seems humans when given discretionary powers over other human’s lives and property can indulge in the most sadist and horrifying practices to reap profit / benefit. The Supreme Court passed an order in 2004 banning the Peshgi system but enforcement of that order is the biggest challenge.

    Considering the immense difficulties faced by these bonded slaves and the violation and injustice enforced upon them the Ummah Welfare Trust (Pakistan) has taken initiative to free these modern-day-slaves and preach the best way of life by helping them out of this debt bondage as well as creating an atmosphere of leading a free and normal life.

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