A brick kiln worker in Pakpattan has been implicated in a sexual assault case to punish him for demanding payment of the minimum wage notified by the government, his family and rights activists affiliated with a non-governmental organisation say.
Munir Ahmed was arrested on February 2 on a sexual assault complaint registered with the Qaboola police on November 7, 2011. His wife Khadija Bibi, who is also nominated in the complaint, alleged that the case was registered to cover up an assault complaint Ahmed had filed against seven men she said were affiliated with the Brick-Kiln Owners’ Association (BKOA).
The complaint accused Abbas Daha, Malik Javed, Haji Akbar, Akram Ratt, Akram Mahar, Chaudhry Abid and Dil Bajer of beating up Khadija Bibi, Ahmed and other workers after a meeting with BKOA president Advocate Iftikhar Mahar on November 19. She said the FIR was registered the same day. She said the attackers threatened them with dire consequences if they persisted in their demand. Khadija Bibi said she and her four sons were also employed at the kiln.
Anjum Raza, president of Insan Dost, an NGO that works to highlight rights violations, told The Express Tribune that his organisation had staged a protest over the incident after several brick kiln workers including Ahmed approached him and informed him about it.
He said they had ended a picket on Samundri-Qaboola Road after police assured them of action against their attackers. However, he said, no action had been taken against them so far.
Invetsigation officer Allah Ditta, who has now been transferred from Qaboola police station, said none of the seven suspects were arrested because they had obtained pre-arrest bails from a court.
Khadija Bibi said her husband had earlier asked his employer Haji Khalid to pay Rs517 per 1,000 bricks to the workers, in accordance with a provincial government notification. She said Khalid and other brick kiln owners were paying them Rs250 per 1,000 bricks. “He said he was paying us the standard rate. He said if we wanted a raise we should consult the association president,” she said.
BKOA president Iftikhar Mahar, who is also the counsel for the complainant in the sexual assault complaint, told The Tribune that he had assured the workers that he would discuss the issue with other members of the association and try to negotiate a raise for them. He, however, did not commit payment of minimum wage.
Mahar rejected the suggestion that the sexual assault complaint was false. He alleged that Ahmed had kidnapped Haleema Bibi, wife of another brick kiln worker Muhammad Nawaz, and sexually assaulted her. He said Ahmed’s wife Khadija Bibi’s name was added to the FIR because the complainant suspected her of abetting her husband in the crime. The FIR was registered with Qaboola police under Sections 496 –A and 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code on January 6, 2012.
Ahmed, who is confined at Sahiwal Central jail, will be presented in a court on March 22 (Thursday).
Sub Inspector Masood Ahmed said he had not arrested Khadija Bibi because he was not convinced of her involvement in the crime.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.