» 02/24/2012, 00.00
NCJP frees Christian man held in slave-like conditions by rich Muslim
NCJP activists successfully obtain the release of Qamar Masih, 25, father of two, who was abducted over an unpaid debt by a landowner for whom he used to work in "slave-like conditions". A priest in Faisalabad is happy about the outcome, blames such incidents on the country's "feudal system".
(AsiaNews) - A rich Muslim landowner abducted a Christian man in Faisalabad for
failure to repay a debt he had contracted and not repaid whilst working for him.
Sources close to the Christian man's family said the latter left the job tired
of being exploited and abused for a pittance. Only the intervention of the
National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church of
Pakistan led to the man's release and a peaceful resolution of the issue. However,
the case highlights the fact that Pakistan's "feudal system" forces "poor
workers into slave-like conditions".
Masih, also known as Bhola 35, a Christian father two from Malkhanwala in Faisalabad, is back at work at a cattle
feed shop owned by a Muslim where he earns 7,500 rupees (US$ 88) a month, a salary
that allows him to make a decent living for himself and his family.
this Wednesday, his former employer, Bilal Sarwar Cheema, a rich landowner connected
with Punjab's land mafia, had him abducted by a group of armed men. He was
kidnapped because he had not repaid a loan (20,000 rupees) the rich Muslim landowner
had granted to him last year.
In order to
secure her husband's release, Qamar's 32-year-old wife, Uzma Dildar, called on
Fr Khalid Rasheed Asi and the activists of the Faisalabad branch of the NCJP
for help. She told them that her husband had quit his job because of constant harassment
and abuses from his employer who treated him like a serf.
The NCJP went to
the police, which opened an investigation. When they met the rich Muslim
landowner, Bilal Sarwar Cheema confirmed the abduction. He told police that
when he found out that Qamar had returned home after an absence of seven
months, he decided to abduct him.
the Christian man to go free on condition he repay the loan in instalments over
a certain period so that he had enough money to support his wife and daughters.
Contacted by AsiaNews, Fr Khalid Rasheed Asi explained,
"Pakistan's remotest regions are still under a feudal system". It is common
practice "for rich landowners to grant loans" and "then keep workers in
slave-like conditions for generations" doing "nothing but the same job".
"I'm happy," the
clergyman said, "that for once the matter was sorted out peacefully."
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