Tax exemption on educational products in Pakistan

Islamabad: The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) urged the Prime Minister of Pakistan to give tax exemption to all education related products and items as well as tax free salaries to all public sector teachers in the next fiscal budget 2014-2015.

The ISJ has said that in order to create a fair educational environment in the country and encourage the poor to take part in the educational and development life of the country, Pakistan needs to abolish all kinds of sales and value added taxes on all types of pencils, pens, color pencils, rulers and sharpeners. Sales and VAT taxes on books from prep-class to intermediate class should also be abolished.

Such tax relief would help not only students going to public schools but also students in private schools. There are thousands of private schools in the country which are catering for the needs of poor people in vicinities where the government is unable to build education infrastructure. According to Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan, government is responsible for the provision of books, uniforms and other material for children from 5 to 16 years of age. There are millions of children who go to private community schools. Both the children and the schools need sufficient financial support and encouragement to be able to take part in different education schemes. The ISJ urges the prime minister to launch joint schemes with private companies like Bata, Services, GulAhmed under a public private partnership to provide quality shoes and uniforms to all children until they have finished school at the intermediate level.

The ISJ laments that in the past no government has taken care of the education and other matters of children with disabilities. These children are considered a burden mainly because the state does not provide financial support for their education and welfare. Therefore, in the next fiscal year, ISJ urges that children with disabilities should be given special consideration. The need for properly equipped special education centres is pressing. In addition regular educational institutions should be made easily accessible by children with disabilities at all stages of their education.

The ISJ also states that the government should reduce 70 percent fees in public universities and colleges and that teachers and professors in those institutions should not pay tax on their salaries. It is estimated that more than 10 million children of school age are unable to afford schooling and of those who can there are millions who cannot continue their education after matriculation and intermediate class because they cannot afford the fees; even the fees of public sector colleges and universities are financially out of reach.

The ISJ laments that there is no public or private bank in the country that could provide interest free loans to students to pursue higher education in the country. This government should allocate special funds for student loans for higher education. Such loans should be interest free and available to all students who have passed intermediate class with any grade. This is the time to invest in children and youth. They are the present and the future of the country.

Deplorable rights of labourers in 2013 in Pakistan

Islamabad: In 2013, 35 workers were reported dead in result of collapse of coalmines, burst of boilers, crushed by machines, fireworks, torture by employers, fell from under construction buildings and electrocuted. The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) expressed deep concerns about workers deaths owing to no implementation of labour laws and absence of health, safety and other protection systems and mechanisms at work places. The data was collected by the ISJ. Every year thousands of workers are electrocuted many lose lives and thousands become permanently disabled. The number of dead and injured workers is so high in other sectors of economy but these are under reported due to absence of monitoring and response systems and mechanisms by the government.

In 2012, after deaths of 24 workers due to collapse of factory building in Lahore, Punjab had lifted ban on labour inspections in February 2012 but it again put ban on labour inspections, which was immediately followed by Sindh, where in Karachi about 300 workers including children and women had died in Baldia factory inferno 2012. Absence of labour inspections results hazardously and life taking working environment.  There are extremely poor occupational safety and health (OSH) standards and their implementation in Pakistan. Besides, there is no effective independent legislation on the issue, only the Factories Act, 1934, addressing workers’ health and safety issues but it has serious weaknesses.

The statement said that both formal and informal sectors’ factories and workshops are clicking bombs that time to time burst and take away lives of workers or disable them for always. The ISJ press release stated that these factories’ bombs will continue be bursting till the political parties and governments stop seeking funds from the owners of these factories for elections and other programs such as festivals and parties; and governments in return give them waiver from labour inspections and implementation of occupational, health and safety standards.

Sadly, in informal economy, debt bondage has resulted miserable lives for millions of poor families mainly in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. Last year, 1871 bonded labourers including 425 women and 944 children were released on the directions of Courts by the police but millions of them are still at large at the mercy of their masters in brick kiln, agriculture and mine sectors, deprived from their rights to survival, life, protection and development.

The ISJ lamented over workers’ poor access to social security in the country. The government’s figure suggests that only 1.56 million workers of a labour force of 59 million enjoy social security benefits; however there are no researches that have assessed the scale and quality of those benefits to such a small number of workers who enjoy social security benefits.

In 2013-14 budget, the federal government had increased minimum wage from Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 but neither the previous nor the new minimum wage rate is provided to workers. The ISJ said that deplorable working conditions and poor wage rates are resulting miseries to lives of poor and working class, which has further negative effects on the country and its development.

The ISJ press release stated that although the role of trade/labour unions has now remained limited to only entertaining employers and government officials including ILO officials for seeking projects and personal benefits. Donor driven projects have weakened the labour movement in Pakistan, which has taken away spirit of continuous and lasting struggles for workers’ rights. Trade unions part of the labour movement are least concerned about employers’ and government’s performance for the welfare of workers in the country.

The ISJ demanded the government to increase minimum wage up to Rs20000 and ensure its implementation. It also urged for introduction of a comprehensive labour friendly legislation and its implementation through strong and effective labour administration placed in every district of the country.

In 12 years, 24725 cases of child sexual abuse reported in Pakistan

Islamabad: In Pakistan, 24725 cases of child sexual abuse reported by NGOs in 12 years from 2002 to 2013. Of the total reported cases, 68 percent were from Punjab province, 21 percent from Sindh, 5.5 percent from Islamabad, 3 percent from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2 percent from Balochistan and remaining from GB and AJK (Azad Jammu Kashmir. In AJK and GB reporting of the child sexual abuse cases is latest phenomena. In GB till 2010, and in AJK till 2006, no case of child sexual abuse was monitored.

Sahil NGO played important role in monitoring of these cases; and, some role is being played by Rozan, LHLRA and SPARC NGOs. These NGOs monitored cases reported in Pakistani media and also directly reported by their field offices.

Of the total reported cases of child sexual abuse, 71 percent were girls. The number of reported cases increased every year. In 2002, total 688 cases were reported, in 2013, the number reached to 3002 cases. Child sexual abuse is frighteningly common in homes, schools, and residential care facilities in Pakistan.

Though every year a big number of cases of child sexual abuse were reported but there were taken no serious and long term advocacy efforts by the civil society organizations to influence the governments for introducing stringent measures for the protection of children in communities, schools, work places, mosques, fields and detention centers.

Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, comes on the third number after Punjab and Sindh. Islamabad has no child protection law and system in place to protect children from abuse, violence and exploitation. Sindh comes on the second where laws exist but implementation is zero. Since June 2011, the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act exists but the government has not notified the Authority and its Rules. Punjab has always alarming number of cases of child sexual abuse, but the governments have taken no serious measures. AJK, Balochistan and GB are without child protection laws.

Child sexual abuse is a silent endemic that is taking place in every corner of the country, creating social disorder for the children, adult survivors and society as whole. It can be prevented and it can be treated with a conscious and sustained effort by government and civil society organizations.

Besides lack of effective legal framework, there is absence of ‘will’ and ‘commitment’ of governments. Since 2009, the Child Protection Criminal Law amendment Bill has been pending, it remained victim of bureaucratic intricacies. It could not reach the parliament. In 2009, the Committee on the Rights of the Child had urged Pakistan to enact the pending bills including the Child Protection Criminal Law Amendment Bill and the National Commission on the Rights of the Child Bill.

On emergency basis, there are required efforts for raising awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults and children about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react the cases or intention for child sexual abuse.

29th slave child reported dead: nobody’s problem, no body’s responsbility

On 13 February, 29th death of a child domestic worker is reported in the media since January 2010 after the death of Shazia Masih. Iqra, 13, was found strangled at her master’s (Mian Shahid) house under mysterious circumstances in Lahore. Parents of the child and police have found torture marks on Iqra’s neck. Iqra was working at her employer for the last one year. As usual the employer is denying responsibility of the death.

In January 2014, 4 deaths and 2 torture cases of child domestic workers are reported in the media: Erum, 10, was tortured to death in Lahore; Azra Ramzan, 16, was raped and strangled to death in Lahore; Haresh Kumar, 10, jumped off sixth floor to avoid more torture in Karachi; Waheed, 10, was tortured for stealing money in Multan; Iram, 16, poisoned to death in Lahore; Fiza, 15, was raped and tortured, she died after three days in hospital in Lahore; Munza, 12, detained and tortured in Lahore.

Since January 2010 to December 2013, 52 cases of tortures on child domestic workers were  reported including 24 deaths. In 2010, 12 cases of torture on child domestic workers were reported including 7 deaths; in 2011, 10 cases of torture on CDWs were reported, of which 6 children were dead; and in 2012, 8 cases including three deaths were reported. In 2013, 21 cases, including 8 deaths of CDWs were reported. All of the cases in 2013 were reported from Punjab province; except two, all were girls. The last reported case in December 2013 was of a nine year old girl from Gujranwala who was beaten up by her employer on the account of stealing gold. She was hanged upside down from a ceiling fan.

Innocent children are brutally and mercilessly tortured, raped, killed by employers inside the boundary walls but these tortures, deaths and raps are nobody’s problem and nobody’s responsibility. The government of Punjab has closed its eyes and society’s moral seems dead.

As usually recent case of Iqra will fade away, no one will follow up, parents either will withdraw cases at the police station level or if the case registered, will comprised with the employer out of the court. This is typically the fate of every case of death of child domestic workers. 

In 2013, though the Supreme Court had declared child domestic labour illegal and unconstitutional, and had directed the governments to take measures accordingly. The federal and provincial and provincial governments yet have not respected Courts views. Though the year 2013’s theme on the international day against child labour was “No to child labour in domestic work” but millions of children in Pakistan are working in others’ houses as domestic slaves; raped, sodomized, tortured and deprived of health and education rights.

In the light of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNCRC’s Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, ILO’s Conventions 182 Worst Form of Child Labour and the Constitution of Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments should immediately declare child domestic labour a form of slavery and immediately ban across the country under the list of banned occupations given in the Employment of Children Act 1991.

13 rescued after 10-year forced labour in Punjab Pakistan

HAFIZABAD [Punjab- Pakistan]: The police rescued 13 forced labourers from a private jail of a landlord during a crackdown after 10 years illegal confinement on Feb 12.

On directives of Lahore High Court, a judicial bailiff and heavy contingent of police conducted raid on the private jail of an influential landlord in Hafizabad. During action, 13 peasants including five women were rescued who were set free on the directives of the court. The released persons said that they were serving as forced labourers for the last 10 years. “Besides torture, sexual harassment, we were provided substandard and least quantity of food,” the labourers said.

The police registered a case against the landlord who managed to flee on getting prior information of the action and started search for him.

Published by Daily The Nation on Feb 13, 2014

Bonded labourers

MIRPURKHAS [Sindh, Pakistan]: Acting upon a court order, Phuladyoon police on Wednesday carried out a raid on the farmland of Allah Bachayo Khaskheli and recovered peasants and their families found forced to work without wages or share in crop.

Long Kolhi had submitted an application in the Mirpurkhas district and sessions court stating that his 34 relatives had been forced into bonded labour by the landowner. He prayed to the court to get them recovered through police.

The police carried out the raid and brought them to the Phuladyoon police station.

They said the liberated peasant families would be produce in the court on Thursday.

Published by Daily Dawn on Feb 6, 2014

In 2013, 1871 bonded labourers including 425 women and 944 children were released and rescued in Pakistan

Islamabad: The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) said that 2013 was another tough year for bonded labourers mainly in agriculture and brick kiln sectors in Sindh and Punjab. However, few of them were released and rescued by the police on the directions of the courts.

Pakistan: Rescued & released bonded labourers in 2013































Source: Media Reports gathered by the ISJ

According to the data collected by the ISJ, in 2013, 1871 bonded including 425 women and 944 children were released on the directions of courts by the police. It includes 32 those children who were directly rescued by the police and FIRs (First Information Reports) were lodged by the police. They were found chained and detained by their masters for forced labour and begging. These figures do not include bonded labourers who escaped from the custody of landlords and also those who were released with the help of NGOs.

In majority of the reported cases of release and rescued by the police, FIRs are not lodged against the landlords or masters, therefore, the business of debt bondage or contemporary form of slavery go unpunished, and keeps flourishing.

Of the total, 1260 bonded labourers were released from Sindh, 577 from Punjab, 34 from Khyber Pkahunkhwa and none from Balochistan.

The ISJ showed concerns that on the Global Slavery Index (GSI) 2013 by the Walk Free Foundation, Pakistan is one of the most populous countries with contemporary form of slaves including bonded labourers but the findings of the report went uncheck and unnoticed by the authorities in Pakistan. The GSI provides a gloomy picture of Pakistan. Of the total 29.8 million modern slaves in the world, 2.2 million (7 percent) modern slaves are in Pakistan. These slaves are abused, exploited, raped, tortured and killed which go unnoticed generally. Of the ten most populous countries with modern slave, Pakistan is on number three after India and China with the prevalence of highest modern slaves. It is upsetting to note that countries like Sri Lanka and Afghanistan which have remained under a war for a long time but there is low prevalence of modern slaves.

The ISJ press statement said that it is not merely poverty that is blamed but in real terms it is the will and commitment of federal and provincial governments that have yet not taken birth therefore slavery and debt bondage is common in the country.

In 2012, during the Universal Periodic Review, Ireland had recommended Pakistan to develop a clear implementation and monitoring plan for the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Rules, 1995 and the National Policy and Plan of Action for the Abolition of Bonded Labour, 2001. The ISJ said that Pakistan had accepted Irelands’ recommendation; now, not only the federal government but after the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010, the provincial governments should expeditiously enforce the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992, prepare provincial policies and plans of action and allocate funds for the rehabilitation of released or escaped bonded labourers.

The press statement further said that the most important and urgent action is required to lodge FIRs against culprits this will ensure for strong and effective deterrence from committing the crime of slavery.

Protection of Pakistan Ordinance and Protection of Human Rights of children and women

The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) has expressed serious concerns about a new anti-human rights law in the name of security of the state.

In October 2013, the president of Pakistan on the advice of the Prime Minister of Pakistan promulgated the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) which is basically amendment in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997, which was introduced by the current government’s second tenure. In 2014, the Ordinance 2013 was further amended to include more stringent provisions to deal with acts of terrorism but many of its provisions are against  fundamental rights of innocent women, children and foreigners in Pakistan. Recently the Interior Ministry of Pakistan through a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) has enforced the Pakistan Ordinance (PPO), 2013, which will be effective from December 5, 2013 .

In the amended ATA (the PPO), all peace disrupting elements are declared enemies of Pakistan and it further says that security of life, property and dignified living of Pakistani citizens in Pakistan shall be the prime goal for all functionaries of the state.

Section 3 of the PPO gives complete powers to armed and civil forces to use necessary force to prevent the occurrence of offences which includes destruction of or attack on communication and interaction lines, gird stations, power generating and distributing systems, lines and poles; attacks on flight crew members; destruction of or attack on gas or oil pipelines and liquid or natural gas facilities and other means of their transport including tankers; destruction of or attack on of national defense materials, premises, utilities, and installations including check posts, prisons and other fixtures;  crimes against computers including cybercrimes, internet offenses and other offences related to information technology etc; wrecking, disrupting or attacking mass transport systems including trains, buses, cars and their stations and ports, etc.

The PPO says that the civil and armed forces on reasonable apprehension can use force (including shot on sight) on people including women and children to prevent them from the commission of offence given in the schedule of the Ordinance.

In Section 3 (2) of the Ordinance, the police officer, a member of the armed forces or civil armed forces acting in aid of civil authority may arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed a scheduled offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion or credible information exists that he has committed, or is about to commit any such act or offence.

Under the PPO, any person including children can be arrested under the preventive detention and can be kept in detention up to ninety days, though the prevention detention of children under 15 years old is prohibited in the JJSO (Section 10 (6)), but ATA has been given overriding effect on all other laws, therefore, no protection measures for children in light of preventive detention are applicable.

The arrest of a person without warrant or information and then detention for ninety days without trial are against the Constitution of Pakistan. Article 10 (1) says that “no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.”

Under the PPO, border crossing is an act of terrorism which is common on Pakistan’s borders. This and many of these types of acts were treated under the common law, will be treated under the PPO.

All Afghani people including women and children will be considered ‘aliens’ means enemies if they did not provide identity documents. Each year, thousands of Afghani people including women and children are arrested by the forces in Pakistan for not providing identity or travelling documents. This will bring more miseries for people from Afghanistan in Pakistan.

It has to be noted that the ex-president of Pakistan had also amended the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance to provide powers to Anti-Terrorism Courts to try cases of juveniles, which is against the child rights standards. These judicial set ups drag children through inhuman and degrading treatment. They are deprived of protection measures provided in the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000. The law in no way mentions and excludes children from its effect. [More details at anti terrorism act is against human rights]

The ISJ urges the government to revisit the law and exclude all the anti-human rights provision, and protect interests of innocent citizens mainly women and children.

The ISJ demands immediate ban on child domestic labour in Pakistan

The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) said that death of ten years old Erum- a child domestic worker (CDW)- by her employer in Lahore in the first week of 2014 is a harsh reminder to society and the government. Erum Ramzan’s is one of the cases that show how children are brutally and mercilessly tortured and even killed by employers inside the boundary walls, which go unnoticed and under reported. However, Erum’s is the first reported cases in which the employer has confessed for torturing the child which resulted her death but in all reported cases since January 2010, no employer has admitted the crime, rather in the first place they influence the police and later on courts releases them on the account of no appearance from the victim’s family side or for lack of evidence.

Eram belongs to village Jandra Okara in Punjab province of Pakistan, she was found dead in the house of Altaf Mehmood in Askari 9 Lahore city. Eram’s mother said that Nasira (employer) and their son Muhammad Ibrar, along with two unidentified accomplices, tortured her daughter to death. She said that her daughter had been working at the house for the past three months. Sources said that her hands were tied, and that the body had torture marks.

Just after three days of Eram’s deaths, on 5th January 2014 another 16 years old child maid (Azra) was found strangled to death after being raped in Lahore city. Azra’s mother Shamim Bibi has lodged complaint with the police against the rich employer.  Azra had come from poor vicinity in Punjab and worked as maid at the house for three months. The employer claimed that the girl had committed suicide. In all such cases, the employers always make such statements. It is being reported by the police that at the crime scene there was no hook or other support which Azra could have used to hang herself. Azra’s case may also lose attention of police and authorities as sores of other cases have.

The ISJ’s press statement said that 2013 was worst year for children in the field of labour mainly in child domestic work in which more child domestic workers’ cases of tortures and deaths were reported in the media. Since January 2010 to December 2013, 52 cases of tortures on CDWs are reported including 24 deaths. In 2010, 12 cases of torture on CDWs were reported including 7 deaths; in 2011, 10 cases of torture on CDWs were reported, of which 6 children were dead; and in 2012, 8 cases including three deaths were reported.

In 2013, 21 cases, including 8 deaths of CDWs were reported. All of the cases in 2013 were reported from Punjab province; except two, all were girls. The last reported case in December 2013 was of a nine year old girl from Gujranwala who was beaten up by her employer on the account of stealing gold. She was hanged upside down from a ceiling fan.

The ISJ’s press statement said that CDWs are continuously sold, exploited, abused, raped, sodomized, tortured and killed. The phenomena of CDWs has general acceptance of internal trafficking, severe torture, abuse, exploitation, forced labour, slavery and murders of helpless and innocent persons. CDWs are deprived of all fundamental rights given in the Constitution of Pakistan (such as Articles 11, 25 (3), 25A) and even the right to life. In June 2013, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had also declared CDW as illegal and unconstitutional and had directed the governments to take measures accordingly.

The year 2013’s theme on the international day against child labour was “No to child labour in domestic work” which was set in light of the ILO’s Convention 182 Worst Forms of Child Labour and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pakistan acknowledges and prohibits forced labour, external trafficking, slavery and worst forms of child labour only in documents but yet has not been able to take any legal and administrative measures to ban CDW and stop brutal torture and murders of helpless innocent CDWs, mainly girls.

In the light of the UNCRC and its Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, ILO’s Conventions 182 and the Constitution of Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments should immediately declare CDW a form of slavery and include it in the list of worst form of child labour and should immediately be banned across the country under the list of banned occupation given in the Employment of Children Act 1991. The ISJ also demands for legal, moral and financial support and protection to Erum and Azra’s families until they receive justice from the court.

UN treaty Committees are urged to follow up with States

Islamabad: The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) Pakistan has requested the United Nations treaty bodies or Committees to follow up with the State parties every year (annually) on the implementation of the core international human rights treaties. In the absence of regular or annual follow up with the States, human rights situation is not improving. The ISJ has also shown its concerns that UN rather strengthening the treaty mechanism – being run through the Committees- has started working on other alternative mechanisms, which has minimized the importance of the Committees and recommendations being issued by these against the States’ periodic reports.

The ISJ said that after 4/5 years or sometimes after 10 years, the State parties submit their periodic reports to the Committees which is an obligation on each State party to treaties to take steps to ensure that everyone in the State can enjoy the rights set out in treaties and periodically report to the Committees. These Committees receive reports from the State parties and NGOs (alternative reports), and then issue their observations and recommendations against the State under review and usually urge the State parties for taking specific legal, administrative, financial and other measures for the protection of human rights. These Committees also receive complaints from the aggrieved bodies or persons. The most concerning issue is, once these Committees issue recommendations, then there is no follow up with the State parties. After five years, if the State party is willing or interested can submit report, if it does not, then there is no mechanism to follow up with State.

In order to improve the treaty body system and human rights conditions in the State parties, the ISJ proposed a model mechanism for addressing human rights violations through the Committees. All Committees should pick/select top 20 countries having extremely poor record of human rights or poor record against the specific treaty. Each treaty Committee should form a group of experts who should annually (every year) visit each country amongst the 20 countries. Each year, consultations in each 20 countries should take place with governments, civil society organizations and children, which should review progress of countries against recommendations and potential steps to remove obstacles in the implementation of the recommendations. For five years this exercise should be carried out in 20 countries. This annual review, update and follow up with the selected States will help the UN Committees to bring the human rights on the track in at least 20 countries.

The ISJ said that each year these treaty Committees should also issue progress reports against the recommendations and articles of the treaties. In addition, the ISJ urged that the communications between the Committees and the State parties should not be kept in secrete but should be shared with public. This way, it would be helpful to make the States as well as Committees accountable for the task they were made responsible for.

The ISJ said that the treaty Committees’ system is weak, which does not have power and follow up mechanism that is why implementation of the human rights treaties in countries like Pakistan has not become possible yet.