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    MATLI, Sindh, Pakistan.
    Pakistan legally banned forced labour four years ago, but human rights activists say thousands of farm workers are still trapped in feudal servitude.

    In the southern province of Sindh, about 1,200 landless labourers who have escaped or have been released from the clutches of their landlord masters live in a temporary settlement at Matli, about 160 km (100 miles) east of Karachi.

    "For the last 10 years my family and I tilled 12 acres of mylandlord's sugarcane fields," Karman (one name), who belongs to a
    Hindu minority tribe of Kholi, told Reuters.

    "In return we were given a monthly ration of a maund (37.32 kg) of flour and a few grams of red chillies and that was all."

    Karman, who cannot read or write, has no idea how his family debt grew to the 400,000 rupees ($11,400) claimed by his master. He does remember that his previous feudal lord paid his wedding expenses, adding 2,000 rupees to the family debt.

    "Whenever I asked them to show me the accounts, the kamdar (foreman)would give me a figure much higher than the last time I had asked him," he said. "If anyone dared argue, they used to strip him, tie his hands to a pillar and beat him with sticks."

    Karman and his family are among 31 bonded labourers released in an April raid by authorities on the landlord's estate.

    A series of swoops on farms and private jails, launched by local officials with the backing of human rights activists, has freed
    hundreds of captive workers in the past year.

    Some escaped to cities or to refuges centres arranged by welfare groups. In Matli, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is using land provided by the local Catholic church as a temporary settlement for
    freed labourers.

    "We decided to escape from the lands of our landlord after four of his kamdars gang-raped me in front of my husband and sons," said Seta (one name).

    She wept as she spoke of her teenaged children who failed to get away and are still in the hands of the landlord and his men.

    "They gagged me and when I resisted they beat me up with sticks," said Seta's husband Kanio. "When I fell on the floor they raped my wife."

    The couple had fallen into bondage when Kanio borrowed 1,400 rupees from a previous landlord, who later sold him to another one.

    Seta accused the landlord of raping her on three earlier occasions.

    "After each incident, his wife assured me that it would not happen again," she said. "But after the gang-rape my husband went to the landlord. Instead of taking action against his men, he asked my
    husband to pay his debt, which had increased to 28,000 rupees, or sell me to his kamdars."

    Seta and Kanio said they had heard that their children were being starved and beaten in reprisal for their own escape.

    The HRCP has taken the lead in trying to prise bonded labourers out of the grip of Pakistan's powerful landlords.

    "We had been spreading awareness about this issue for many years. Last year we decided to take an active part in securing the release of bonded labourers," Shakeel Pathan, coordinator of the HRCP's special task force for Sindh, told Reuters.

    In June 1995, a 16-member HRCP team visited the sugarcane estate of a landlord in Sindh province and later persuaded the authorities to raid his farm and release 67 people.

    Freed labourers recount similar experiences of being chained, beaten,raped or sold by one landlord to another. However, human rights activists say few landlords have been prosecuted or punished according to the law. Instead, the landowners, many of whom are prominent members of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, are pressing local administrators and police to halt the raids.

    They are said to have demanded that the government return freedlabourers or pay their alleged debts. One deputy commissioner, who asked not to be named, said the government had advised local administrators to ease up on landlords, especially those who are members of parliament.

    "Lack of will on the government's part is delaying the release and rehabilitation of the peasants," said Pathan.


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    I have noticed that you make it a practice to cut and paste from other places but you rarely post any of your own thoughts to drive the discussion on the subject.

    Are we then to assume that you:
    a) are the author of the posted message?
    b) are in agreement with the views expressed in the posted message?
    c) just wanted everyone you know to read the posted message?


      First it's Abdulmalick!
      And, Secondly, the Readers and yourself may ASSUME whatever you choose to!


        It took INternational pressure on the Pakistani Govt to outlaw bonded labor - probbaly one of the last countries on the planet to do so .......

        We Pakistanis have collective apathy towards anyone and everyone.... thats why we are ruled by neanderthals .....

        Other major Unresolved human rights issues in Pakistan ....

        1. Child Labor ( particularly the carpert industry)

        2. BOnded Labor in Interior SInd.....

        3. Repatriation of Pakistani Citizens from Bangladesh ....

        4. Gross Human rights abuses by law-enforcement agencies in Pakistan....


          ..and everythign that goes on, affects people from all groups not just a certain minority

          not to say that it is right, but to say that it is esclusive to a certain group is not quite accurate now is it.

          ..furthermore.. I would rather not air my Assumptions

          'Nuf said
          The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that... he is gone.