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Rise in Kidnapping and Selling Kidneys of Poor Christian Workers in Pakistan
Shocking stories of how brick kiln owners are abusing their workers

By Ashfaq Fateh
02/24/2011 Pakistan (ANS) — The ASSIST News Service has uncovered a series of heinous crimes against poor Christians in Pakistan.

In the last ten days, two cases have been brought to our notice which illustrate the dire situation of poor brick kiln workers in the Pakistani Christian community.

They are trapped into vicious circle of debt/loan and this leads to a never-ending exploitation of these poverty-stricken workers. The law enforcement agencies and local administration’s traditional negligence further make the life of these workers miserable. The only hope of these poor workers is urgent action by the higher and supreme judiciary. These are the two stories:

Meherban Masih (known as Ladoo Masih), 39-years-old, is a resident of village # 287 J.B Palasour, District, Toba Tek Singh. He was married to Shamila Bibi (27) on August 9, 1998. Meherban was working in his village at brick making factories in Toba Tek Singh and God blessed Meherban and his wife with one daughter, Nyla, who is seven years old. Both the husband and wife are illiterate.

Meherban told ANS that three years ago, the owner of a brick making factory contacted him and his elder brother, Nazar Masih, with the offer of work at their factory. They said that they would be paid according to law and also that their families would be taken care of.

Meherban and Nazar finally agreed to take the jobs after the number of requests had been made by the owner and went with their families to Qila Didar Singh, Gujranwala.

Meherban told ANS that in the beginning, things went well, but after two months, we were informed by the factory Munshi (Clerk) that they owed money and therefore, they would have to pay it from their wages.

“My brother Nazar and I were surprised to hear this as we had not got any money neither from the clerk or the owner,” said Meherban. “When I enquired, he showed us a register which showed signs of thumb marks. The clerk tried to prove that these were those of my brother and myself.”

Meherban went on to say, “My brother and I then realized that the clerk and the owner had exploited us for being illiterate. We decided to protest against this to the owner and when we spoke him about this injustice, he called his armed men and ordered them to teach us lesson.

“The men badly tortured my brother and me with steel rods and chained us up for two weeks. My brother’s wife and mine went to see the clerk and owner to find out what had happened to us and they then threatened our families saying they would be killed if they spoke to anyone about this.

Nazar Masih, the elder brother, told ANS, “We begged the owner to release us as our children and wives were without food and were looking for us. The owner forced us to accept that we had to pay him Rs. 250000/- ($2,976 USD) and if we didn’t pay up, our family would not be allowed to speak to anybody without his permission. He also said that none of our family member would be allowed to travel to see any relatives on Christmas, weddings or deaths.”

Bilqees Bibi, the wife of Nazar Masih told the owner that he never paid full wages for the work. She also alleged that she saw the owner and clerk sexually abuse Shamila (wife of Meherban) at gun point. She said that they raped her twice or thrice a week.

“Whenever she resisted, they threatened her that our whole family would be killed,” she said. “One day, when she was again raped by the owner, I could not stop myself and confronted him and he threatened me that if I spoke about it to anybody, he would rape my three young daughters too.

“I could not sleep the whole night after the serious threats to my young daughters. I decided not to share what the owner does with Shamila but stressed to Meherban and my husband that we had to escape as our daughters were not safe living here. We decided that whenever we got the chance, we would run away from this slavery.

“The time was passing, and one day the owner came to us in anger demanding that we give him the money. We told him that we had been struggling hard to pay him and he became furious and demanded the money there and then. We told him of our condition and whatever is earned he had been deducting most of the wages.”

She said the owner then said he had a “simple solution” and that was that Bilqees could sell one of her kidneys and there pay him the money.

“I, at once refused, because I had not been keeping well and had six children to look after,” she went on to say. “But the owner did not listen and overpowered me. The armed men put me in a car. My eyes were tied with a black cloth and I was taken to a hospital. I was made unconscious for several hours.

“When I awoke, I saw that my right side was stitched and my clothes were full of blood. I came to know that my right kidney has been removed and sold by the kiln owner. When I heard this I started crying. The armed men came in the operation theater and called me names and asked me to stop otherwise, I would be killed.

“I was brought home and my family was told that my kidney has been sold for Rs. 250000/-. Again, we were told not to share about it with anybody otherwise there would be ‘dire consequences.’”

Meherban told ANS, “Two months back, our families were able to escape from this slavery and reached our native village of Palasour in Toba Tek Singh. We have been living happily and working in another brick making factory in Toba Tek Singh.

  “A couple of weeks back, my wife and daughter went to give help to my brother Falksher’s wife who was expecting a child in a nearby village. It was then that the owner’s armed who had caused us so much trouble, kidnapped Shamila (my wife) and Nyla, 7, my daughter from the brick making factory of where we had been working. This occurred as they were waiting for the bus to come back to Palasour, Toba Tek Singh.

“Since my wife and daughter have been kidnapped, the clerk has been calling me from his cell phone saying that my wife and daughter are in their ‘custody’ and if I want to get my wife and daughter released, I had to pay them Rs. 250000/-. If not, he said that my wife and daughter will be sold. He also threatened that if I informed the law enforcement agencies then they would both be killed.”

He told ANS, “I am not in a position to fight a case and get the help of police as they too demand money for everything. My only hope is that the Chief Justice of Pakistan would intervene and give me justice. I have sent him my application to take sue motto action to get my wife and daughter released from the custody of the owner and also to take legal action against him.”

Tariq Mehmood, General Secretary Labor Party TTS and District Coordinator, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is helping the victim families. He has managed to send application to Chief Justice and other twenty one government authorities and civil society organizations to take notice of the situation.

Tariq Mehood has been working to protect the rights of poor brick kiln workers. He has been facing server threats from the kiln owners to support the workers.

ANS spoke to Johnson Gill, a Christian rights activist about the poor workers plight, and he said, “First all I condemn the owner, the local administration, and the labor department who have remained silent against this violation of labor rights.”

Rasheed Jalal, the District President of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) expressed his grave concerns over the kidnapping of Shamila and her daughter. He said, “I am afraid, that the mother and daughter can be forced to become Muslim.”

Rafia Salomi, a woman’s rights activist and Deputy Director of the Society for Human Development, has appealed to international human rights organizations to “raise their voices against the state of women and children”

Atif Jameel Pagaan, Executive Director, Harmony Foundation, said, “It is tyranny. The Chief Justice of Pakistan is appealed to take immediate notice of the situation and get the wife and daughter of Meherban released from this custody and also take action against the never ending tyranny of taking this woman’s kidney and demanding money from the victim’s family.

“The case of kidnapping and selling the kidney should immediately be registered against this man and his accomplices. The crime against Meherban and his family has been committed because he is poor and also because he belongs to the Christian faith.”

In the second story is about Inayat Masih, who is from District Kasur, and is one of twenty five family members who were made slaves of a local brick making factory in District Sahiwal. The owner made fake papers against them and put pressure on Mr. Masih that he had to pay him money and he then forced the two sons of Inayat Masih to sell their kidneys. The boys refused and were kidnapped and their kidneys were sold at Rupees 800000/- ($9,523 USD)

The owner is still demanding more money to be paid and because they refused, family members were badly tortured. During this torment, the daughter-in-law of Inayat, who was pregnant at the time, was injured and suffered a miscarriage.

These are just two illustrations of a sickening situation that is going on in Pakistan and I now call on the authorities to take action to stop it and arrest the culprits.