APPG Marks Anniversary of Child Activist Iqbal Masih's Murder with Renewed Call to End Modern Slavery in Pakistan

Today, 16 April 2024, on the anniversary of the tragic murder of Iqbal Masih, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani Minorities has reiterated its commitment to combating the persistent issue of slavery in Pakistan. Iqbal, a Christian child labourer who became a symbol of resistance against child exploitation, was brutally killed on April 16, 1995, at just 12 years old.

Iqbal's story began at the tender age of four when he was indentured to a carpet maker to pay off a family debt, under conditions that violated every conceivable child right. He worked long hours, was underfed, frequently beaten, and his physical growth stunted. His plight led him to become an advocate for children's rights after escaping these brutal conditions, gaining international recognition, including the Rebook Human Rights Award in 1994.

Reflecting on Iqbal’s legacy, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Co-Chair of the APPG, expressed that the fight against child labour and bonded labour remains as vital today as it was decades ago. Despite Iqbal’s efforts and subsequent laws aimed at curbing such abuses, forced labour, especially among children in industries such as brick kilns, agriculture, and carpet weaving, remains rampant.

The APPG has recently launched an inquiry into modern-day slavery in Pakistan, highlighting harrowing testimonies from victims and survivors, underscoring the cruel reality that many Pakistani children still face today. These hearings have shed light on the severe abuse continuing unchecked and the urgent need for robust enforcement of existing laws combined with a sincere political commitment to dismantle the networks benefiting from this exploitation.

As the APPG prepares to release a detailed report next month, dedicated to Iqbal Masih's memory, it aims to lay out concrete steps for both Pakistani and British governments to eliminate these forms of modern-day slavery. The tragic irony that the legacy of a child labourer could galvanize such significant international and local response underscores the profound impact of Iqbal’s brief, yet transformative life on the world stage.