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Kidnapped and tortured ex-slave set free after payment of ransom.


In a race against time to save the life of an ex-brick kiln slave Salim Masih, British Pakistani Christian Association hired Advocate Niaz Amir to help free him from the former slavemaster who had had him kidnapped and tortured for leaving his brick kiln without permission. Salim Masih states he left the kin after working for an agreed period of a year which was the time required to satisfy off his debt. However Slave Master Sheikh Mustafa alleges Salim Masih still owes him money (click here).

On wednesday (10th May) BPCA's officers Rajal Dawood and Ambar Saroya took Salma Bibi and her children into one of our safe houses.  Salma was very traumatized as her husband had been kidnapped from their home near another brick kiln on 21st April, by two henchmen of Sheikh Mustafa who she told BPCA had beaten her husband whilst Salma and her children were forced to watch. (click here)

On 12th May Mr Amir had been appointed by the BPCA  had ensured an FIR was registered against Sheikh Mustafa and a warrant was created permitting Khudiyan police to search his property.  The property search did not yield any signs of Salim and Sheikh Mustafa denied knowledge of the whereabouts of Salim stating that Salim had left his employment some months previous and was owing Sheikh Mustafa over £430. Khudiyan Police left the premises of Mr Amir, stating there was no evidence of a kidnapping but stated that if we could locate where Salim had been taken to the warrant would remain active and they could search other properties. We found ourselves in a quandary as Police were offering no other assistance. 

Later that evening  the sister of Salma who is still working on Sheikh Mustafa's brick kiln called her by phone and was in a real state of panic.  She told Salma that she had received a call from one of the abductors who said that Salim would be killed by 15th May unless the ransom was paid.  The sister told Salma that she had spoken with Salim who sounded terrified and who told her that he was being tortured by the men but was still alive.  He pleaded with the sister to help raise the finance to save his life.

Though British Pakistani Christian Association is loathe to pay brick kiln owners for the emancipation of slaves which a practice which perpetuates despite being outlawed, we realised we had no option in this instance if we were to save the life of Salim.  We asked Mr Amir to be our go-between and he visited Sheikh Mustafa at his home on 14th May with BPCA officer Zeeshan Gulzar to negotiate Salim's release.. Sheikh Mustafa aggressively stated that Salim would not be set free until he had paid of a debt he believed to be 50,000 rupees (£370). Sheikh Mustafa agreed to exchange Salim if this money was paid to him and BPCA agreed to the ransom left with no other choice. Sheikh Mustafa also agreed to sign documents agreeing to settlement of Mr Salim's debt.    

Salim and Advocate Amir moments after the emancipation of Salim.

The exchange was made later in the day and Salim was immediately transported to our safe house. On the journey to the safe house Salim explained to BPCA officer Zeeshan Gulzar that he had borrowed only 15,000 rupees from them Sheikh Mustafa and when he went to pay back his debt he discovered the debt had risen to 50,000 pak rupees.  This was impossible to payback for hm so he agreed to work one year on the Sheikh Mustafa's brick kiln.  After completing the year Salim and his family left the brick kiln before Sheikh Mustafa could add further interest to Salim's debt.

Salim, said:

"I can't believe I am alive I was held captive for so long [21 days] and truly believed they would kill me.  I was left in a dingy room without light and was fed pulses and one roti (bread) every day.  

"The men kept slapping my face, and kicking my torso for all those days - they only stopped when they could see that my breathing was difficult.  They told me that I would have to agree to restart working at their brick kiln or face being killed. 

"When the men discovered an NGO had got involved the violence increased and I thought I would be killed. But somehow God saved my life I owe Him everything."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said:

"We have been involved in some precarious situations but a ransom deal like this was a first for us. The threatening nature of the perpetrators of Salim's kidnap was felt by Advocate Amir and our officer Zeeshan - despite their terror they put themselves in danger to save the life of Salim..  

"Only the prompt donations provided by our regular supporters ensured we saved Salim's life on this occasion. It is a situation we pray we will not ever face again.

"Police insouciance and the authority that brick kiln owners have other statutory organisations despite breaking anti-slavery laws is a serious concern. It permits modern slavery to persist with under circumstances of extreme brutality. 

"Laws are of no purpose if they are not enacted - justice and equality are still a pipedream in Pakistan."

Salim and his family are now in a BPCA safe house but Salim requires medical treatment.  The men kicked his back and chest many times causing broken ribs, swelling and respiratory concerns. Salim and his family will also need to be resettled into a new community.  If you would like to contribute to the work of the BPCA especially to help or Salim and his family please (click here)



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