ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday constituted a commission to examine the enforcement as well as violation of labour laws in brick kilns in the capital territory.
Hearing a matter related to juvenile bonded labourers, the court expressed concerns over the violation of fundamental labour rights.
“Keeping in view the gravity of violations of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and persistence of the abhorrent practice of bonded labour in the 21st century, this Court appoints a Commission to enquire and recommend measures in order to protect the rights of the labourers employed in the brick-kilns,” the order said.
The commission consists of Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat, Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union General Secretary Mohammad Shabir, a representative of the Advocate General of Islamabad, Daniyal Hassan, and Adnan Haider Randhawa and Umer Ijaz Gillani, advocates of the high court. A representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Shakeel Anjum, the president of National Press Club, are also members of the commission.
The commission shall be at liberty to co-opt any other person as a member. The court directed the commission to conduct a survey and inspect all brick kilns in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
It is also supposed to collect record and data of labourers employed in the brick kilns, examine the laws enforced in the ICT relating to protecting the rights of the labourers, mechanism relating to registration of the labourers employed within the ICT - whether in the industry or as domestic help - and assess enforcement of laws. It will also ensure that public functionaries take appropriate action to free those labourers who are found to be victims of bonded labour.
Body given a month to survey all kilns, submit report
The commission has been given a month to complete its exercise and submit a report.
The deputy commissioner has been asked to ensure that the recovered children are dealt with in accordance with their constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
“This Court has been informed that the recovered children have not been enrolled in an educational institution despite the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 25-A of the Constitution,” the order said.
On Friday, the deputy commissioner produced the juvenile bonded labourers before the court.
During the course of hearing of the petition on Saturday, the court was told that the brick kiln owner who had allegedly abducted and detained the children and their parents had been arrested.
Mr Shafqaat informed the court that a raid was conducted and the children along with adults were recovered. It was alleged that they had been kidnapped and kept in unlawful detention by the brick kiln owner.
The court observed that grievances raised in the petition had established prevalence of the practice of bonded labour in the business of brick kilns.
“This appears to be a tip of the iceberg. It is noted that such a practice is the most detestable form of modern slavery. It is a constitutional duty of the state and its functionaries to reach out to every labourer so as to ensure that no one is illegally forced to work in brick kilns. It is an obligation of the state to ensure that the shackles of slavery in any form or manifestation of bonded labour are eliminated. The perpetrators of such a heinous criminal market practice are also to be dealt with in accordance with the law so that they are made an example,” the court order said.
Further hearing in the matter was adjourned till Feb 2.
Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2021