Pakistan’s complicated relationship with modern slavery




Although the slavery of every kind has been abolished and denounced worldwide.  International laws, conventions, treaties, human rights declaring and every modern sovereign state has enacted against the concept of slavery. History revealed a long journey to end slavery, nations, religions, and leaders of the time fought against this custom and state of mind.

The United States of America (a modern state) had witnessed a civil war to end this evil, President Ibraham Lincoln took a stand against the slavery and succeeded in abolishing it from America after a full-fledged war of years and consequently he was murdered by anti-slavery forces.

In this era, human watch organizations and other institutions researched and revealed that contemporary slavery also known as modern slavery. The term modern slavery defines by The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons agency of the United States Department of State says that “‘modern slavery’, ‘trafficking in persons’, and ‘human trafficking‘ have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion”.

The major rationales or causes of modern slavery are poverty, lack of education, unemployment, poor social structure, lack of legislations, minority communities and refugees.  Approximately 25 million to 50 million people are living or working under the definition of modern slavery. This is important to state here that in present days not only the private entities are causing modern slavery but governments are also committing this crime in increasing numbers of a victim of modern slavery.

Who are these ‘modern’ slaves?

The persons who are working under government forced labors, prison labor, bonded or child labor, forced migrants, sex worker, forced or child marriage, fishing industry, manufacturing industry, trafficking, and domestic works are victims and are modern slave of their masters. The statistic shows that modern slavery is billions dollars industry and last year this industry make the business of 150 billion dollars.

The global slavery index published a list with a number of people living in modern slavery or as a modern slave. On very sad note and eye-opening fact that Pakistan was at number 6 in this list. In our country most of the individuals who are living as a slave from the agricultural industry, mining, domestic work, bonded labor, and child labor.

This is an admitted fact that in Pakistan Ten million Children under the age of 14 years are doing jobs as child labor. In Punjab and Sindh, thousands of farmers families who are working in fields are slave of their landowners.

Most of them remained under debt to their masters actually when they got a loan of mere some thousand rupees from their landowners at any life event like at their child’s marriages or performing last rites of their deceased and they need decades to pay off the loan in way of working in their fields.

Article 11 of the Pakistani constitution:


Article 11 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 prohibits every kind of slavery, forced labor, human trafficking, and child labor. In every fiscal budget, the federal governments, as well as provincial governments, announce the minimum wages of worker for the next fiscal year.

But in the recent survey 70 to 75% employers pay their worker less than the wages set by the government and majority of employees do not like to challenges their wages/salaries (which are less to meet legal requirement ) to the authorities of payment of wages due to lack of resources and in fear to lose a job.

No doubt modern slavery is like a curse and violations of human and fundamental rights of the citizen. But as I cited many causes above are not being addressed by the governments. When workers are not being paid or doing forced labor then they will adopt other illegal sources to meet their basic requirements and ultimately the crime will increase and can create law & order situation. It is the duty of government to make sure to eliminate all causes of modern slavery.

Also See: PML(N) MPA And Sons Accused Of Rape By Housemaid

Naeem Khan Qaisrani

Practicing Lawyer  

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