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Condemned to be a kiln worker

June 29, 2014

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SAHIWAL: Activists of brick kiln unions have alleged maltreatment by their owners.

A number of kiln workers from village 205/EB, Ahmadyar and Arifwala had formed unions to plead their cases of just wages and other rights. They allege office-bearers of Pakpattan’s District Brick Kiln Association keep trying to suppress their voice by resorting to various tactics.

On June 24, it is learnt, kiln owners got registered a rape case against two activists of Bhatta Mazdoor Union with the Saddar police station in Arifwala. The complainant was a worker at Shalimar Brick Kiln Industry.

The police registered a case against the two workers for a crime which, according to the complainant, was committed on March 18 last. SHO Allah Ditta claimed that the police found the nominated men ‘innocent’ but they had been arrested on the order of a court.

The workers accuse District Brick Kiln Owners Association (Pakpattan) General Secretary Iftikhar Mohar of masterminding fake cases against kiln workers.

A few months earlier, Rana Kiln Industry’s employee Bushra Bibi, wife of Muhammad Arshad, had been ‘penalised’ for actively pursuing cases of colleagues.

She told Dawn that she, along with her husband and some kiln workers, formed organisations -- Bhatta Mazdoor Union, Rana Brother Bricks, Masha Allah Sindhu Bricks, Allah Tawakal Bricks and Marhaba Bricks. She said the group voiced concern at low wages and denial of other rights of workers at various fora.

“I motivated kiln workers by visiting their workplaces to put up a demand before their owners to ensure minimum wages as announced by the Punjab government,” she said.

She said Iftikhar Mohar, a lawyer at Arifwala Tehsil Courts and owner of a kiln industry, did not like her activism and orchestrated an attack on her. “Munawar Zaman, owner of Shalimar Kiln Industry at 205/EB, along with 20 men, attacked me and a co-worker on March 17 at a meeting. The assailants tortured her and fled the scene,” she said.

Bushra said she vowed to pursue the matter with the police and withdrew the case only when Munawar Zaman’s father ensured full protection to her in future and requested her to give up the case. She said she was sacked the very next day by her employer.

The workers allege Iftikhar Mohar is also involved in torturing another worker, Khadija Bibi, a resident of Kaboola locality. Khadija lodged an FIR at the Arifwala police station but she was arrested and embroiled in litigation for one year.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2014