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SAHIWAL: Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), Pakistan, secretary general Syeda Ghulam Fatima has demanded a high-level probe into registration of three fake cases, including that of kidnap, against two brick kiln workers allegedly for demanding better wages and working conditions.

“This is a story of police corruption and highhandedness,” alleges Ms Fatima while talking to Dawn, adding it is also a story of how Punjab police “collaborate” and “connive” with the powerful and become “partners” in exploitation of marginalised segments of society, especially the brick kiln labuorers.

She alleged that two brick kiln workers of Kasur -- Saleem Masih and Farooq Masih -- were illegally detained for 54 days and in three fake cases registered against them with Pattoki Saddar police station, Chuchak police station, Kasur district and Shergarh police station, Okara district.

She alleged the two workers were implicated in the fabricated cases at the behest of three brick kiln owners -- Khalid, Khurram and Amjad -- residents of Chak 27, Dholan, Pattoki.

Both of the workers were released on Saturday after the last case of alleged kidnapping of a girl got registered against them at Shergarh police station, Okara, was withdrawn by police on the intervention of BLLF.

Shergarh SHO Mr Ijaz and Investigation Officer Mujahid Bokhari confirmed that FIR No 128/17 lodged under Section 365-b of the Pakistan Penal Code was found to be “fake” after which the police released both Saleem and Farooq.

Narrating their ordeal, Ms Fatima says Saleem, Asif Sohail and Farooq are cousins and have been working at a brick kiln in Pattoki.

According to Saleem, working conditions at the brick kiln were bad where both owners Khalid and Khurram would torture the labourers and did not pay them their due wages.

Saleem and Farooq protested the injustice and filed their case with Provincial Minimum Wages Board office. Acting on the complaint, the Minimum Wage Authority commissioner for Kasur district wrote to kiln owners in October 2016 for clearance of workers’ dues.

This annoyed the kiln owners who turned more harsh to Saleem and Farooq who left the job and moved to a another brick kiln in Faisalabad district in October 2016.

Ms Fatima said that after they left the job, a case (466/16) of theft of 20-tola gold was registered against Saleem and Farooq under Section 406 of the PPC at Pattoki Saddar police station on the complaint of Zahid Mahmood, a cousin of kiln owner Khalid. As a result, both workers were picked by police on the night between Feb 27-28 and put in Saddar police lock-up “without any entry”.

Saleem alleged that during their detention, they were continuously tortured by policemen and Khalid. He alleged that their tormentors wanted them to get back to their job at the kiln. On their refusal, Saddar police entered their arrest in the register on March 6, 2017. They were later sent to Kasur Central Jail by court on judicial remand.

Both of them later succeeded in securing bail but were again picked from outside Kasur Central Jail by Chuchak police in connection with a case (FIR No 62/17), of stealing two goats, under Section 379 of the PPC on the complaint of Khalid. However, a court granted them bail in that case on April 20, 2017.

But they did not know that their ordeal was not yet over as they were again picked by Shergarh police “led by” Chaudhry Khaild and Chaudhry Khurram. This time they were implicated in a case (128/17) of kidnapping a woman under Section 365 of the PPC on the complaint of Ijaz Ahmed, a brick kiln worker. He accused them of kidnapping his daughter, Kaloo Bibi.

Ms Fatima said IO Mujahid Bokhari arrested Saleem and Farooq on April 20, 2017, in connection with an FIR registered in January 2017.

She said that after the third fake case, Saleem’s father Younas Masih approached BLLF and sought help. She said the kiln owners Khalid and Khurram kept threatening Saleem’s brother Amjad during the whole episode.

Ms Fatima demanded that the inspector general of Punjab police should probe into registration of three fake FIRs against Saleem and Farooq and hold accountable the police officers responsible for their 54 days long ordeal.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2017