Members of five Christian families have been released after being apprehended for more than two decades as slaves in a Muslim-run brick kiln in eastern Pakistan, Christian officials involved in the rescue operation told BosNewsLife.
The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a major advocacy and aid group, told it arranged for two vehicles for the May 6 searches at the brick kiln in the industrial city Wazirabad in Punjab province.
Nasir Saeed, a CLAAS director, told BosNewsLife that “a total of eight” Christians were found working as slaves in the area, belonging to five families.
He added that some were imprisoned around the brick kiln itself; others at a proximate location connected to the operation’s owner, Gul Nawaz Cheema.
He explained, “CLAAS’s staff accompanied the bailiffs to two separate locations” after appealing to the Lahore.
There were no reports of captures and police allegedly unwilling to further inspect the case.
In their statements took by BosNewsLife, Christians told that they had been “in bonded labour for more than 25 years”. One of the women, Safia Bibi, told she started working at the brick kiln along with her husband, Anwar Masih, soon after her marriage.
She added their all nine children were born at the brick kiln where they grew up and soon started working at the brick kiln with them.
The Christians further told they had been living in a house at the brick kiln without basic facilities such as a bathroom or toilet.
Owner Gul Nawaz, whose name is publicly recognized, “often forced this family work without wages and whenever they tried to leave, he cruelly tortured them,” CLAAS investigators said.
Christians further told that they would “sometimes have to go for days without food” and when they demanded money, “were forced to work more”.
Safia’s husband reportedly died in 2013 due to sickness and weakness because he was forced to continually work. “He was prevented from visiting a doctor, but would not have been able to afford treatment even if allowed,” CLAAS told. “His children were not allowed to attend his funeral and were forced to work on the day.”
According to investigators, however they are Christians, they are not permitted to be present at prayer meetings or celebrate Christmas and other religious festivals.
Saeed told BosNewsLife that “it is sad that even in the 21st century, slavery still continues” in Pakistan, a profoundly Islamic nation.
CLAAS says it offers free legal aid to slaves. “The government is aware of the situation, but unfortunately has never taken concentrated steps for the welfare of these people, and therefore slavery continues,” Saeed told.