Law enforcement agencies on Sunday night swooped down a private jail of some influential landlords and freed more than 100 people trapped as bonded labour for many years.
According to officials, a heavy contingent of police raided a brick kiln in the suburban area of Hafizabad on the instruction of the CCPO Gujranwala. The raid was based on the information provided by a 16-year-old boy, Irfan, who had escaped from the private jail four years back.
The police also arrested three persons – Saifullah, Mushtaq Ahmed and Muhammad Asif – who are allegedly responsible for keeping these people in subhuman conditions.
The freed people, including men, women and children, later revealed that they had to work on the kiln and on fields of the accused and they were neither properly paid nor provided sufficient food. They said their captors had killed six people who had attempted to escape from their clutches. They revealed that some of the prisoners were also subjected to brutal torture, which crippled them. They said the blame for this torture was usually put on other prisoners and the culprits managed to escape punishment with the connivance of police.
They alleged that the landlords also raped their women. The boy, Irfan, also corroborated the account and said that his own father and two uncles had been tortured to death by the accused.
Taking notice, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has sought a report on the incident. He has ordered that a case against the persons operating the private jail be registered.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2014.