Extracting forced labour from work­ers

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS -

UN­FOR­TU­NATELY, ours per­haps is the only coun­try in this mod­ern era where forced or bonded labour still ex­ists in com­plete disregard of the Con­sti­tu­tion. La­hore High Court’s Tues­day judg­ment or­der­ing the re­lease of forty five kiln work­ers in­clud­ing women and chil­dren who were re­cov­ered from a Daska kiln once again re­minds us the plight of hun­dreds of thou­sands of brow­beaten bonded labour­ers who be­cause of their ex­treme poverty never get them­selves free from the evil clutches of this mod­ern day slav­ery.

Though bonded labour has been out­lawed in the coun­try in line with the UN con­ven­tions on hu­man rights but re­gret­tably ac­cord­ing to the 2014 Global Slav­ery In­dex, 2,058,200 peo­ple are en­slaved in Pak­istan. This is preva­lent in var­i­ous sec­tors of the econ­omy most no­tably brick kilns, agri­cul­ture, car­pet weav­ing and prob­a­bly many oth­ers. Ge­o­graph­i­cally speak­ing, the most wide­spread bonded labour is found in the south­ern parts of the Provinces of Sindh and Pun­jab; nev­er­the­less, anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests that it has its tentacles in all the Fed­er­at­ing units. Re­cently, the Pun­jab gov­ern­ment claimed to have taken steps to­wards erad­i­cat­ing this men­ace and also is­sued Pun­jab Pro­hi­bi­tion of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Or­di­nance 2016 but the re­cov­ery of bonded labour­ers from Daska kiln man­i­fest that noth­ing prac­ti­cal is be­ing done on the part of au­thor­i­ties con­cerned to ad­dress the is­sues that lie at the root of this prob­lem. Des­per­ately poor fam­i­lies are en­tan­gled in the vi­cious cy­cle of bonded labour when the feu­dal em­ploy­ers trick them into tak­ing a loan. Sub­se­quently all the fam­ily mem­bers in­clud­ing chil­dren, are forced to work for long hours for lit­tle or no pay of­ten for seven days a week in or­der to re­pay the debt which in most of the cases never de­creases and sim­ply passes from one gen­er­a­tion to the next. In­tim­i­da­tion and vi­o­lence in­clud­ing chain­ing the fam­ily mem­bers are used to pre­vent peo­ple es­cap­ing this form of slav­ery. Those hold­ing work­ers in servi­tude are hardly pros­e­cuted or pun­ished. More­over, work­ers who con­test their ex­ploita­tion are in­vari­ably con­fronted with po­lice ha­rass­ment, of­ten lead­ing to im­pris­on­ment un­der false charges. This is some­thing that is un­heard of in any civ­i­lized so­ci­ety. We, there­fore, will urge the Fed­eral and Provin­cial govs to im­ple­ment the rel­e­vant laws and take prac­ti­cal steps to­wards free­ing the so­ci­ety once and for all from this curse.

AMID the present cli­mate of mis­giv­ings and mis­ap­pre­hen sions in both Wash­ing­ton and Islamabad, one the­sis holds much lever­age, that af­ter its best uti­liza­tion of Pak­istani part­ner­ship dur­ing the Cold War , the post Cold War, and the post 9/11 pe­ri­ods; the US is now try­ing to wield ‘strate­gic di­ver­sion’, thereby lim­it­ing the scope of its strate­gic re­la­tion­ship with Islamabad. This devel­op­ment is by no means a good news for the US-Pak re­la­tion­ship since the new tra­jec­tory un­veils more ‘per­ils than its mer­its’. Given that com­plex sce­nario, the ques­tion arises here is: can the present or the fu­ture gov­ern­ment in the White House af­ford ‘to lose an old ally’— Pak­istan? Un­der­stand­ably, to trace this an­swer, re­quires an ex­am­i­na­tion into the mor­ph­ing chem­istry of this ‘geopo­lit­i­cal-cum-geostrate­gic re­la­tion­ship’.

Since the early 1950s, Pak­istan has worked with the United States via Pak­istan Army and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices to ad­vance US strate­gic in­ter­ests. Dur­ing the hot pe­riod of the ‘Cold War’ era, the So­viet oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan 1979-1989,Pak­istani gov­ern­ment did ev­ery­thing to de­fend the Amer­i­can in­ter­ests in the re­gion, un­for­tu­nately the price of which Pak­istan is still cul­ti­vat­ing in terms of sheltering the mil­lions of Afghan refugees. Fol­low­ing the 9/11 at­tacks in 2001, Wash­ing­ton again ex­pected from Pak­istan se­cu­rity forces to de­feat the Tal­iban gov­ern­ment and drive alQaeda out of Afghanistan.

As for Pak­istan, it has its own ‘strate­gic pri­or­i­ties’ that it pur­sues rea­son­ably clearly and that the US should

THE dev­as­tat­ing so­cio-eco nomic im­pacts of the wars serve as cat­a­lysts for chronic political in­sta­bil­ity and insecurity. Con­tem­po­rary his­tory has wit­nessed civil and re­gional wars, rav­aging coun­tries of Mid­dle East, West Africa, Eastern Europe and Afghanistan to the scale of ir­repara­ble losses and con­stant threat to devel­op­ment and in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity. For 20 years af­ter the end of the cold war, deadly con­flict was in de­cline.

How­ever the last few years that pos­i­tive trend went into re­verse, and each year since has seen more con­flict, more vic­tims and more peo­ple dis­placed. So it is war that has chal­lenges to the global & re­gional peace, sta­bil­ity and the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian’s con­se­quences: Syria and Iraq, South Su­dan, Afghanistan, Ye­men and the lake Chad Basin. It in­cludes those in in­flu­en­tial and func­tion­ing states, like Turkey, as well as those that have col­lapsed, like Libya. It fea­tures con­flicts that are al­ready bad but are poised to get much worse with­out in­tel­li­gent in­ter­ven­ing, such as Bu­rundi, as well as ten­sions, such as those in the South China Sea, that are sim­mer­ing but have yet to boil over.

There have re­cently been nu­mer­ous civil wars and con­flicts go­ing in Africa, some of which are still go­ing on. An­gola, Bu­rundi, Congo, DRC, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nige­ria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Su­dan and Zim­babwe, all have un­der­gone and in­volved in civil wars. No less than


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