Guests at a local rest house discovered that the entire hotel was being run by child labourers.
A guest, Shahid Ghafoor, discovered that a rest house he was staying being run by four managers who had employed over 28 children under the ages of 15 to run the hotel. “I accidentally went into the kitchen of the facility at night to ask for something and I saw about ten children sitting on the floor chopping vegetables and mincing meat,” he said. Ghafoor said that he called in the local police and they later discovered that the owners of the facility had employed children to clean the rooms as well as maintain the building.
“They had essentially employed 28 children for the price of probably five labourers and were running the entire operation for profit,” said Dera Musheer station house officer (SHO) Kalim Sultan, adding “we recovered lots of children and they have told us some horrible stories of how they have been treated,” he said. Police officials said that they had transferred custody of the children to the Child protective services.
“They will now determine whether these children should be returned to their parents or not,” Inspector Haroon said.
“Minor children are pushed into forced labour and hotel owners pay parents to employ these children for life,” said a CPB Rahim Yar Khan branch officer Rasool, adding “these children have told us that many of them were sold by their parents for a sum and others were runaways.”
Eight-year-old Arsalan told Shahid Ghafoor that he had been picked up by the hotel owner Ashraf two years ago. “I was begging but he said he would give me a home. This place is even worse than the streets because we have to work all day and we never get to take a break.
Many of my friends were beaten and when they ran away Ashraf had their parents arrested by the police,” he said.
“It isn’t unheard of,” said Rasool, adding “When parents sell their children and the child runs away, the employers often manage to have the parents prosecuted.
CPB officials have also blamed the area’s political leadership for being involved in child labour.
Rajanpur welfare society and functional league leaders demanded that the chief minister and human rights organisations take notice of the situation.
“This isn’t the only time we have heard of businesses being run on the backs of children. There are other hotels in Badli Sharif, Pul Gari and Fatehpur Punjabian that practically survive on child labour and slavery,” Rasool said.
“I was shocked when I found out. Sadly, It is not uncommon to see child labour but to see an entire hotel being run off of children was shocking. Some of these boys and girls are no more than five year’s old,” said Ghafoor.
SHO Sultan said that many of the children also said that they had been sexually harassed and abused.
Rajanpur police has filed a case against four men in this regard including Ashraf, Safdar and two others.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2011.