Christian Couple Rescued From Six Years of Bonded Labor in Pakistan
Our affiliate in Pakistan just rescued a Christian couple from bonded labor.
Hanif Masih and his wife, Maryam Masih, had been working for a wealthy Muslim farm owner, Mian Faisal, in a small village in Hafizabad, about 115 kilometers from Lahore. Both started their work in 2016. Hanif took care of Faisal’s cattle and Maryam worked as a maid in Faisal’s house. Faisal provided them servants’ quarters and loaned Hanif 250,000 Pakistani rupees (about $1,300) to put a new roof on the servants’ quarters when they began their jobs in 2016.
Faisal told Hanif that he would pay him 9,000 rupees (about $60) per month, which is about half of the official minimum wage in Pakistan. Maryam was paid 1,500 rupees (about $10) per month. However, Faisal paid Hanif only 4,000 rupees per month, deducting wages every month to repay the loan he had given Hanif to put on the new roof.
After about five years, Faisal stopped paying Hanif any salary, except for rations for him and his wife. Whenever Hanif asked for payment, Faisal would beat him and did not allow the Christian couple to leave the premises.
In June 2021, Hanif and his wife escaped, went to another city, and found work there. On August 10th, when Hanif and his wife were visiting their daughter, Faisal found out about it. He came to Hanif’s daughter’s house with five armed men and took Hanif captive back to his farm.
Hanif’s wife contacted our affiliate in Pakistan and our attorneys filed a habeas corpus petition in the Lahore High Court on August 19th. The court ordered the local police to recover Hanif and produce him before the court on August 23rd.
When Faisal found out about our petition, he beat Hanif and made him sign documents stating that he had borrowed 550,000 rupees (about $3,350) from Faisal.
The police recovered Hanif and presented him before the court. Hanif testified that he was forcibly kept and made to work against his will. The judge ordered that Hanif be set free. The judge said that Faisal could pursue his case about the loan in a civil court, but he could not hold Hanif or make him work against his will.
Hanif was thankful that he was set free but was worried about the case. Our team on the ground assured him that we will fight for him if Faisal goes to civil court for recovery of the alleged loan.
In Pakistan, bonded labor is unlawful, but many poor people are still forced to perform such labor. Our lawyers on the ground in Pakistan have helped free numerous families from this form of involuntary servitude. Pakistan has also outlawed the giving of loans that bind the employees because employers—mostly owners of brick kilns and cattle farms—often use such loans to obtain cheap labor and to ensure continuous bonded labor. By paying salaries less than the minimum wage and then deducting the loan amounts on top of that, the loans are often paid off quickly. However, the employers who are engaged in bonded labor are also engaged in corrupt bookkeeping practices and, thus, the loan amounts are usually never recorded as being fully paid off.
In this case, however, we have sufficient evidence that Faisal forced Hanif to sign the loan document after we had filed the habeas corpus petition; that the actual loan was used to make improvements to Faisal’s property; and even if it were considered a loan, the loan has already been paid off by the deductions from Hanif’s and his wife’s salaries. If anything, it is Faisal who owes the Christian couple money.
But today is a day of victory and joy for Hanif and his wife!