Statement by the All-Part Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani Minorities, on April 16th – the anniversary of Iqbal Masih’s murder

Apr 16, 2024 | News

Statement by the All-Part Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani Minorities, on the anniversary of Iqbal Masih’s murder See

[London, 16 April 2024] Today, the APPG for Pakistani Minorities, a cross-party parliamentary group focused on the situation of minority communities in Pakistan, marks the anniversary of the murder of a Christian boy, Iqbal Masih, in 1995, at the age of 12. Iqbal Masih was a child labourer and activist who campaigned against abusive child labour in Pakistan.

When he was only 4, his family took a loan from a local industrialist. Iqbal was placed with a carpet maker to work until the debt and high-interest rate had been paid off.  Iqbal was chained to a loom and made to work as much as 14 hours a day. He was fed very little and beaten more than other children because he attempted to escape and refused to work. The dire conditions he was in affected his growth; he had the height and weight of a 6-year-old when he was 12. He managed to escape andwas rescued by a human rights organisation. He became an outspoken public advocate against child exploitation. In 1994 he received the Rebook Human Rights Award and spoke at many child rights events. He was shot and killed on 16 April 1995, in Pakistan, at the tender age of 12.

Lord Alton of Liverpool, the APPG Co-Chair, said,

‘Today, we remember the bravery of Iqbal Masih and his fight for children’s rights in Pakistan. We also remember that sadly, 24 years after his murder, slavery in Pakistan is still an ongoing issue and not a page in history books, and an issue that continues to thrive with impunity.

Last month, the APPG for Pakistani Minorities launched an inquiry into bonded labour – modern-day slavery in Pakistan. During oral hearings, we heard moving testimonies from victims and survivors. We heard testimonies of young girls being abused in brick kilns. It is outrageous that young girls and boys who should be receiving an education so that they can become full contributing citizens of Pakistan are condemned to a life of servitude and bonded labour. Pakistan has good laws to combat this gross injustice but it also needs political will and determination to take on the vested interests that are equivalent to the slave trade profiteers and British Victorian exploitation which led to children being sent up chimneys to clean the soot. 

We have heard from a few who were fortunate to have been rescued from what can only be described as a living hell. There are still millions enslaved across Pakistan in brick kilns, agricultural land and the carpet industry. The report, which will be published next month, will be dedicated to the memory of Iqbal Masih and make recommendations for the Pakistani and the British Governments to eradicate this modern-day slavery from Pakistan.’

For further information, please contact Morris Johns, Admin Secretary APPG +44 7910 629864, or e-mail [email protected]

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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