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Girls await justice after three years of illegal captivity, forced labour

By M. Waqar Bhatti

Karachi: Seven-year-old Rubina and nine-year-old Samina were rescued some seven months ago from illegal captivity and forced labour, but have yet to be administered justice.

In 2006, the girls’ father, Nazir Ahmed, brought his two daughters to Karachi from Okara, and handed them over to a family in Delhi Mercantile Society for employment as domestic servants. The agreement reached at the time was that Mateen, the employer, would pay a monthly remuneration of Rs1,000 to each girl.

The girls’ employment, however, soon turned into harassment and forced labour, as they were regularly subjected to torture, humiliation and deprived of food and sleep. “They used to beat us with sticks, often smashed our heads with walls and on a number of occasions, we were locked in the terrace for the entire night,” both sisters told The News at the premises of the Sindh High Court (SHC).

The girls and their father had approached the SHC through a retired army officer for the registration of a case against the employer after the police refused to do so, but the court directed them to approach the sessions court for the registration of the case. “I don’t have the money to frequently travel to Karachi to pursue the case,” Ahmed told The News on phone from Okara.

Ahmed, a man in his 70s, claimed that he had brought his daughters to Karachi to work as servants because he could not feed his entire family comprising of nine persons due to his old age. “For three years and two months, neither was I given any money, except for the 19 thousand rupees as advance, nor was I allowed to meet my children for a single moment,” he claimed. “I’m glad my daughters are back and now I would do whatever possible to earn bread and butter for my children.”

The worst sufferers, however, were Rubina and Samina, who remained confined at the residence of Mateen’s married daughter, Sonia, for over three years, where they were repeatedly tortured, humiliated and deprived of food and sleep on many occasions. “On various occasions, Bibi (Sonia) smashed our heads against the wall so badly that we fell unconscious,” Rubina said.

“The employer, Mateen, is a retired businessman, and had hired the young girls for working as domestic servants at the residence of his married daughter. For the next three years and two months, these girls remained confined at the residence of employer’s daughter, and were maltreated,” Major (retd) Zahid, a businessman from Okara, told The News.

The employer, Mateen, however refuted all allegations levelled against him by Ahmed, saying it was a case of blackmail as the father of both the children wanted to mint money from him. “I accept that I hired both girls but I also paid Nazir Ahmed the money agreed between us regularly. I kept the girls like my own daughters, and it was not an illegal detention,” he claimed.

Mateen said that he had hired the girls to work at the residence of his daughter, who is suffering from a disease, and added that they were treated well by them. “When the police came, I handed over the girls to them. It is a dispute of services and money, not the illegal confinement and maltreatment with the children,” he maintained.

The Ferozabad police, who were responsible for handling this case, played a dubious role, as whenever Nazir would approach them, they would always favour the employer as he would grease their palms, alleged Major (retd) Zahid.

“Some one and half year back, Nazir approached Ferozabad police and gave them an application. They appointed an official to investigate the matter, he went to Mateen, got some money from him, and asked Nazir to come back after three months” Major (retd) Zahid said, adding those “three months” would never arrive.

Finally, Nazir approached Major (retd) Zahid, who used his influence in the police to get directions issued to the Ferozabad police to recover the detained girls. Subsequently, the Ferozabad police raided Mateen’s residence on March 22, 2009 in Delhi Mercantile Society and recovered both the girls.

SHO Orangzeb Khattak or any other senior official could not be approached despite repeated attempts to ascertain their version.
Source: The News
Date:11/2/2009

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