In Pakistan, release and escape of bonded labourers decreased to more than 80 percent in 2014 and 2015 in comparison with release and escape in 2013. The data gathered by the Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) Pakistan shows surprising as well as worrisome news that in 2013, 1871 bonded labourers in agriculture and brick kilns sectors were released mainly through the courts and some of them had escaped from landlords’ captivity.
In 2014 and 2015, 292 and 376 bonded labourers were released respectively and some of them had escaped from the landlords’ captivity. This significantly reduced number of release of bonded labourers in agriculture and brick kilns sectors raises alarms and suspicious over the labour rights governance in Pakistan.
In 2013, the Global Slavery Index report had revealed that Pakistan was among top ten countries with 2.2 million people in modern slavery (debt bondage, bonded labour). Pakistan is among top ten countries on the Index which has extremely poor or worst national response to address the issue of modern slavery.
The data collected by ISJ through newspapers also reveals that in 2015, 132 bonded labourers were released and escaped from the landlords’ captivity only in agriculture sector in Sindh and 235 bonded labourers were released from brick kiln sector in Punjab and only 9 bonded labourers in brick kiln sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Of the total released in Sindh, 51 were children, 53 women and 28 men. Of the total released in Punjab, in brick kilns, 43 were women, 43 children and 149 men.
In 2014, total 292 bonded labourers were released from agriculture in Sindh and brick kilns in Punjab. Of the total in 2014, 275 were released from agriculture sector in Sindh that include 69 men, 91 women and 115 children. There were only 4 bonded labourers released from brick kiln and 13 in agriculture sectors in Punjab.
From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), there were released 9 and 34 bonded labourers from brick kiln sector in 2015 and 2013 respectively. There were no reports about the release of bonded labourers in 2014 from KP. In all three years from 2013 to 2015, there was no case of release or escape of bonded labourers reported from Balochistan.
In 2014 and 2015, escapees from the captivity of the landlords in agriculture sector were nominal individuals (men and women) family members who after their escape filed habeas corpus cases in courts and got released their family members. From 2013 to 2015, total 2525 bonded labourers have been released from the captivity of landlords and brick kiln owners that includes 1160 children (46 percent), 616 women (24 percent) and 755 men (30 percent).
The ISJ Pakistan presumes that the number of release and escape of bonded labourers may have not been reported by the media; however, a sharp decline in the release of bonded labourers may be result of problems bonded labourers families face after their release in courts and ex-bonded labourers camps in-and-around Hyderabad. It may be the inference of landlords’ extra vigilance over the families, or may be advance payment to haris and brick kiln workers is not being provided by landlords or brick kiln owners, which is basically one of the causes of slaving hari and brick kiln worker families. This situation calls for an urgent investigation on the causes of decrease in bonded labourer’s release.
The report is full with new and old information (or repetition of the information) but the major issue in the report is, it lacks detailed information on various issues that the Committee on the Rights of the Child had recommended Pakistan to provide. It shows Pakistan’s institutions do not have capacity to monitor and gather information. The Committee had also urged Pakistan to take initiatives/measures in all areas of child rights which includes legislative, administrative, financial, technical and so on but Pakistan shows little progress in the report because children has never been priority of the governments in Pakistan. However, the National Commission for Child Welfare & Development (NCCWD)- a helpless, non-statutory body, lacking competence- is slowly and sluggishly working on generic child rights agenda without any plan of action.
The fifth report by Pakistan offers some of the initiatives taken by the government, however, it ignores a large number of initiatives taken by the civil society organizations which should have been made part of the report. However, the report appears to be UN agencies data and lack proper referencing.
The ISJ is also concerned about the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s reluctance to share the fifth report with the public and civil society organizations. The report had been submitted in January 2015 which has been put on website but the Committee has not published any press statement on it.
The ISJ urged the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child to immediately issues a press release/s on the matter and invite civil society organizations to review the report from now on, so that a constructive environment or cycle should start.
The fifth report report can be reviewed at http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/TBSearch.aspx?Lang=en&TreatyID=5&TreatyID=10&TreatyID=11&DocTypeID=29&DocTypeCategoryID=4
The fact finding team revealed that the issue of child marriage is common in DG Khan and other parts of Southern Punjab mainly in those areas which are close to river Indus and close to Indian border. In these areas, there is no writ of the state, and no one can dare to ask about tribal systems in which children are married in minor ages.
Locals of village Mir Mohammad Khosa informed that a few days ago a minor girl from Ahmadani tribe was married with a young boy, on the complaint of the local activists, the police of Police Station Darkhast Jamal Khan had arrested both families of Ahmadani tribe but released these after getting bribe.
According to the fact finding team of the ISJ, in these areas, a girl is reported married immediately after her first menstruation, once a girl gets it, her mother declares her able to be married. It was also disclosed by the team that in these areas, families married off their girls in minor age by 12/13 years of age because of fear of losing virginity, which might cause stigma for family.
The ISJ is conducting a survey in katch area on both sides of river Indus in Southern Punjab and Sindh. The initial findings of the survey revealed that about 70 percent girls are married before 16 years of age and 50 percent of these are married by 12/13 years of age. These are those areas in Sindh and Punjab where exchange (wata sata) marriage is extremely common, which take place mainly because of keeping balance of power to use women in two different houses. In this marriage, the age of girl and boy is not important; they are married when the other party wants to have the girl for doing household chores, in this case, even the girl’s first menstruation is not given any consideration. Communities living by river Indus do not give consideration to formal registration of marriage; it takes place only with prayers and consent of parents.
The initial findings also reveal that in these areas, there are hardly any schools for girls, initially primary schools do not exists if these exists but parents only send to boys.
Awareness on the law of the child marriage restraint act is none-existential, even the marriage registration authorities are unaware about it. However, due to reporting of child marriage cases in the media, people hide real ages of children, and on the Marriage Register, they write 16 years and 18 years for girls and boys respectively. Since there is no provision in the law to ensure ages of marrying couple, therefore, it is easy to arrange such marriages with the consent of nikah registrar.
The ISJ demanded that Governments of Punjab and Sindh should make the police accountable and responsible for child marriages. The police should call meetings of Nikah Registrars, heads of the communities and staff members of Union Councils in these area; these people should be warned about cases of child marriages reported in their areas. The ISJ also demanded for actions to be taken to stop rukhsati of Jameela Bibi in village Mir Mohammad Khosa.
2 years ago, second time Pakistan’s state of human rights was reviewed. Many countries during the review showed displeasure over poor implementation of the UPR recommendations given by countries in the first cycle in 2008 in the HRC. Pakistan was given 166 recommendations to improve different aspects of human rights; one of the recommendations was rejected by Pakistan at the spot.
Out of 166, 7 recommendations were reject, 33 recommendations were noted; and all other recommendations were accepted by Pakistan. Only general recommendations were accepted and specific recommendations were either rejected or noted.
Unfortunately Pakistan has not been able to progress on 5 percents of recommendations. Many countries suggested to control on poverty and decrease it, but poverty has increased alarmingly, people’s purchasing ability has decreased; therefore malnourishment has increased.
Pakistan has not set national commission on human rights, for which it was applauded in the HRC in the October. Governments at national and provincial levels are not pro-human rights institutions. At national law, for the last three years, a law exists for the establishment of human rights commission but no commission, no budgetary allocations, no chairperson and no other human resources. Only Sindh province has established the Sindh Commission on Human Rights in 2013 but it is ineffective because of no human resources and poor budgetary allocations
Pakistan has yet not recognized child domestic labour as worst form of child labour which results murders of scores of children every year. It was recommended to ban child domestic labour through effective legislation and other programmes.
Pakistan has totally ignored and sidelined rights of vulnerable groups, ethnic and religious minorities. There are taken no measures in two years to stop sufferings of people caught in debt bondage and slavery. Minorities are living a fearful live, and deprived of all fundamental rights.
In Pakistan the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights has been mandated to ensure implementation of human rights related provision, but yet the Ministry has not been able to prepare plan of action in light of the UPR recommendations.
The ISJ also regretted over no or poor follow up of the UPR recommendations by various countries who have embassies and consulates in Pakistan, but these countries’ preferences have never been the UPR, but only vested interests.
The ISJ urged HRC to urge Pakistan for submitting 2 years progress report. It also requested Prime Minister of Pakistan and Chief Ministers for giving top priority to the UPR recommendations.
This suggestion to countries like Pakistan is nothing more than providing an excuse or opportunity to increase fuel prices which are already higher, which have largely caused high inflation, increasing poverty and poor consumption powers by majority of citizens in developing countries. With the increasing fuel prices (which are often seen and reported every month) the life items from bread to life saving medicines go up. In other words, life has become cheaper than the life saving items. For one time meal, poor and working class youth have taken law in their hands.
The IMF rather suggesting (substantially investing) for creating alternatives of less harmful and cheaper sources of energies is pushing Pakistan and other developing countries to impose more taxes on poor. The IMF dreams that by imposing more taxes (which it gives the name of fuel tax reform), there will be substantial health, environmental and huge fiscal benefits. It says that with such efficient fuel prices there will be reduction in deaths caused by pollution (from fossil fuel combustion). In no way, the increase of fuel prices in the name of environmental protection will bring changes in the current practices and trends of deaths in countries like Pakistan where rule of law does not exits but the only worst governance, corruption, nepotism and maladministration.
Sadly, the IMF’s study has ignored more deaths caused by increasing poverty, high inflation and low purchasing power which are result of increasing fuel prices. There are already millions of children and women in countries like Pakistan dying because they cannot afford one time meal and life saving drugs. In these countries, malnutrition is result of hunger and poverty which infers at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year- five million deaths.
It is highly appreciable that the IMF has also suggested that countries should make arrangements for providing the consumers with an accurate assessment of the actual costs associated with any product or energy. Suggestions like these are unheard by countries’ top leaders, and unfortunately are never implemented, lamented the ISJ’s statement.
The ISJ considers that these kinds of studies are impetus to poor countries’ cruel and selfish ruler for imposing new taxes rather focusing on restructuring the tax system.
The ISJ’s press statement said that study should have only come up with recommendations that countries should reduce consumption of energy from fossil fuels and work on the least harmful options of creating energy sources such solar and wind, and also decreasing of industrial dependence on energy produced by fossil fuels products such as coal, natural gas, gasoline, diesel and petroleum. There should have been suggestions for shifting railways, public transports and ships from fossil fuels energy to cheap and less harmful energy sources.
The ISJ recognizes that the world has badly been affected by environmental pollution caused by emissions from fossil fuels but it regrets that the institutions like IMF has played central and bigger role in the destruction and damage of the world’s environment by imposing its only profit driven policies, which had and has increased only vulnerability of poor people to become easy prey of poverty and has given advantage to rich people to exploit poor people mercilessly.
The ISJ urged the IMF to wave off all loans it has given to Pakistan and other poor countries rather giving suggestions to increase taxes on poor by using humanistic approach.
The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) is deeply upset with criminal attitude of District Education Department Shikarpur for continuously ignoring complaints of villagers of Rahim Dino, Shikarpur, Sindh. The villagers are concerned about no educational activities in the government boys primary school of the village since 2004 when it was built. The ISJ urged the Chief Minister of Sindh for taking serious actions against criminal attitude of the officials at District Education Department Shikarpur.
According to a local activist- Anwar Ali Maher- and resident of Rahim Dino Maher village, Union Council Mangrani, Shikarpur, Sindh, children are deprived of their right to education. After much ado, Government of Sindh had approved a two-room school building which was built in 2004. Since then, the school building has never seen any child getting education in it.
There are about 50 households in the village with an average 100 children of school going age at a given time. very few children of the village used to go five kilometers away to other villages for education. Majority of children are engaged in child labour.
According to villagers, in government’s papers, the school is shown operational, and teachers and other staff are taking their salaries.
In this regard, local people had submitted applications with the EDO Education Shikarpur but no measures were taken to address the issue, only false promises were made. In 2013, an application was submitted with the Ombudsman Sukkur Region for opening the school and starting education in the vacant school building.
In result of continuous hearings at the Ombudsman’s office, officials from the Education Department and the local landlord had forced local applicants to withdraw from the application. For some time, the matter was silenced. The officials from the Education Department said that they would open the school but there are no signs of opening the school.
Every month, residents of the village and the activist appear before the Ombudsman office but no one comes from the Education Department. The villagers are worried about ineffectiveness of the Ombudsman office and non-opening of the school for many more years.
The ISJ has demanded the Chief Minister Sindh for immediately bringing criminal officers mainly EDO Education Shikarpur to justice who kept the school building without educational activities for about 8 years and deprived children of the village from their fundamental and constitutional right to education. The ISJ also urged the CM Sindh for providing furniture and other material necessary for the education.
The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) welcomes and appreciates steps taken by the Government of Sindh which had passed the Sindh Protection of Human Rights Act on 16th May 2011 and in May 2013, notified establishment of Commission, its Chairperson and six other members under the said law. Please see notification at THE SINDH HUMAN RIGHTS RULES 2013 -1
Sindh is the first province in Pakistan to take this a great step. However, there is a long way to make this commission neutral, independent and autonomous.
The ISJ believes that the Commission will play its role in advancing and promoting human rights and social justice in the province under the Chairperson of Justice (retired) Majida Rizvi and other respectable members. It is good to see that Chairperson of the Commission was the first female judge of the high court in Pakistan.
Besides many other roles, the Sindh Human Rights Commission has to take suo moto actions or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his/her behalf about violation of human rights or abatement and negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant.
The ISJ urged government to go ahead in making this commission independent, neutral and autonomous, and also to allocate maximum funds for letting it to play its role of monitoring and responding to human rights violations.