Iqbal was born in 1983 in Muridke, a very small, rural village outside of Lahore in Pakistan. At age four, he was sold into bondage by his family. Iqbal’s family borrowed 600 rupees ($16) from a local employer who owned a carpet weaving business, and in return, Iqbal was required to work as a carpet weaver until the debt was paid off. Every day, he would rise before dawn and make his way along dark country roads to the factory, where he and most of the other children were tightly bound with chains to prevent escape. He would work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, with only a 30-minute break. Iqbal stood less than 4 feet tall and weighed only 60 pounds.
Escape and activism:
At the age of 10, Iqbal escaped his slavery, after learning that bonded labor was declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. But he was caught by police and brought back to Arshad and told him to tie him upside down if he tried to escape again. Soon after, the police were bribed and Iqbal was tied upside down anyways. Iqbal escaped a second time and later joined the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) of Pakistan to help stop child labor around the world. Iqbal helped over 3,000 Pakistan children that were in bonded labor to escape to freedom and, he made speeches about child labour throughout the world.
Iqbal was fatally shot in Muridke on April 16, 1995, shortly after returning from a trip to America. He was 12 at the time. Some say that he was shot by a farmer, and some say that he was murdered because of his influence over bonded labor. His funeral was attended by approximately 800 mourners. There is a book called Iqbal that shares a story of his legacy.