Iqbal Masih – Pakistan’s child hero

It is often said that Pakistan is a hard country. That it demands too much of its people. Even its children…

Repost from @purana_pakistan:

Iqbal Masih was born in 1983 to a low-income Christian family in Muridke, a commercial city outside of Lahore.

At age four, he was put to work by his family to pay off their debts. Iqbal’s family borrowed 600 rupees ($3.23) from a local employer who owned a carpet weaving business. In return, Iqbal was required to work until the debt was paid off. The work was intensive. Child labourers were bound with chains to carpet looms to prevent escape.

Iqbal worked 14 hours a day, six days a week, with only a 30-minute break. He made 1 rupee a day, but the loan continued to increase due to interest and his family’s need to take on more loans.

At the age of 10, Iqbal escaped his slavery, after learning that bonded labour had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He went to the police to report his employer, Arshad, but the police brought him back to Arshad. Iqbal managed to escape a second time. He attended the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) School for former child slaves where he acquired his education in two years.
Iqbal went on to help over 3,000 Pakistani bonded laborers get freedom and made speeches about child labour throughout the world.

He expressed a desire to become a lawyer and began to visit other countries including Sweden and the United States to share his story and encourage others to join the fight to eradicate child slavery.

Iqbal was fatally shot by Ashraf Hero, a heroin addict, while visiting relatives in Muridke on 16 April 1995, Easter Sunday. He was 12 years old. His mother said she did not believe her son had been the victim of a plot by the “carpet mafia”. However, the Bonded Labour Liberation Front disagreed because Iqbal had received death threats from individuals connected to the Pakistani carpet industry.

His funeral was attended by over 800 mourners. ‘The Little Hero: One Boy’s Fight for Freedom’ tells the story of his legacy.

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