Police on Wednesday recovered 13 bonded individuals who had allegedly been kept in illegal confinement for five years in a private jail in the village of Ramji Kohli near Nagarparkar.
A police team headed by Station House Officer (SHO) Nagarpakar Abdul Razak Umrani, in a court-ordered raid in the village on the suspected private jail of Rahim Ali Khoso, recovered the labourers, including four women and five children.
Dharmoon Kohli had petitioned the court seeking liberation of his family members. He told journalists that his family members had allegedly been kept in confinement and forced to work without any share in their agricultural yield.
The recovered individuals alleged that the women among them had been victims of sexual harassment by the landowner and his relatives.
The SHO said that they would be produced in the Sindh High Court on Thursday as per the court's orders.
Pakistan is among the countries with the highest number of bonded labourers in the world.
In a 2015 Dawn report, Green Rural Development Organisation's Dr Ghulam Haider had said that over 2.3 million people are facing bonded labour, with over 80 per cent of them being Hindus.
He had said that the inhuman practice is rampant in the agriculture industry, in brick kilns and fisheries, and many labourers were mercilessly exploited by influential landlords "committing atrocities against these vulnerable communities".
Dr Haider had said that "Pakistan has become the third-highest bonded labour-infected country in the world" as the Bonded Labour Abolition Act of 1992 has not been implemented rigorously.
Earlier this week, speakers at the release of a report titled "State of Peasants’ Rights in Sindh 2016" lamented that Sindh’s political, social and administrative structure was controlled by feudal and landlord families; thus, pro-peasant amendments in laws were not possible.
In April 2015, the Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Bill; which, in 2016, after the assent of the governor of Sindh, became the Sindh Bonded Labour System Abolition Act (SBLSAA) 2016.
"The new law is an exact copy of the BLSAA 1992. The issue of bonded labourers remained unaddressed because the Act of 1992 was never implemented," they said.
Moreover, they added, the district vigilance committees were never formed and culprits never arrested and sentenced under the act. The Sindh government had merely fulfilled the formality to make the Act of 1992 a provincial subject.
In 2016, a total of 257 bonded labourers, including children and women, were released from different districts in Sindh.
In addition, 94 bonded labourers were released from Balochistan and Punjab.
The bonded labourers released in Balochistan were basically peasants from different districts of Sindh belonging to the Hindu community doing agricultural activities in the districts of Kech and Turbat.
The number of bonded labourers released in recent years — 2014 (275 labourers), 2015 (132 labourers) and 2016 (257 labourers) — has decreased significantly compared to 2013 when 1,260 bonded labourers were released on the orders of the courts.
The speakers also noted that by December 2016, approximately 1,580 families and 8,984 individuals were living in eight ex-bonded labourer camps which were without health, education or other basic services and facilities.