While experts call the present epoch the fourth industrial revolution, some segments of Pakistani society are still living their lives as slaves like people once used to in feudalist societies. According to the report “The State of Peasants’ Rights in Sindh in 2018” slavery persists in the agriculture sector in all its forms. The report highlights the exploitation of poor peasants in the hands of the powerful landlords. And it’s exploitation of the worst kind: Bonded Labour. What is bonded labour if not a modern form of slavery?

What is the state doing in this regard? Despite the guarantee, the constitution of Pakistan gives to the people of the country under article 11 that slavery, and forced labour is prohibited, the report presented exposes the failure of the state machinery in rooting out the slavery that is prevalent in parts of Sindh province.

How can Peoples Party Pakistan (PPP), supposedly a progressive party that takes pride in calling itself a pro-poor party, remain indifferent to the plight of the peasants known as hari kissan across Sindh? Bhutto is, effectively, dead politically speaking. Can the prevalence of bonded labour be seen as the incompetence of the incumbent government? Yes! Without any doubt! Are there no laws that prohibit the practice of bonded labour? No, acts are there that deal effectively with the issue of the bonded labour. However, it is the state that has not the subject of bonded labour on its priority list.

What is interesting is the fact that  Pakistan has ratified at least two fundamental Conventions on Forced Labour (No. 29 and 105). And although there exists a national and legal policy framework that protects and promote, though theoretically, the rights of bonded labourers since 1992, the report in 2019 about the existence of a modern form of slavery is a social stigma.

The fact that is most depressing about the modern form of slavery, i.e., bonded labour prevalent in Sindh is that the stories of the victims remind one of the medieval years. One needs to be cognizant of the fact that the report mentioned before speaks of the illegal practice in the agriculture sector and focuses on the province of Sindh. However, other areas of Pakistan and other sectors of the economy, for instance, the brick kilns industry too suffer from the malice of bonded labour.

The report is an eye-opener for all of us, in general, and for the state, in particular. The government needs to take aggressive measures to put a stop to the practising of slavery. Furthermore, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of PPP, should probe the matter and direct the provincial authorities to take action against people who are still practising it.