/** labr.global: 305.0 **/
** Topic: Pakistan Promises Child Labr Crackdown **
** Written 10:11 PM Jul 20, 1996 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <email@example.com>
Subject: Pakistan Promises Child Labr Crackdown
Pakistan has ordered local authorities to raid factories employing children in its latest effort to deflect mounting international criticism and threats of trade sanctions for its labour practices.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has also asked officials and the human rights ministry to look into the issue of child labour and take remedial steps.
Pakistan was heavily criticised in April last year after the death of a child rights activist, Iqbal Masih, who was shot dead.
Suggestions that carpet makers had plotted to kill him were subsequently discredited and an investigation by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) concluded that his murder was unrelated to his campaigning activities.
But his death and concerns over bonded or slave labour prompted growing demands by western governments for tighter labour regulations. One Pakistani official said: "Never before have we had so many people demanding certificates that exports were not manufactured by children working as labourers."
The incident prompted fears of repercussions affecting carpets and other exports suspected of being produced by bonded or child labour.
Labour Minister Ghulam Akbar Lasi has asked the commerce ministry to launch, within a month, a special mark scheme for carpets and footballs to certify that no child labour was used. A similar scheme will be launched for footballs following a recent outcry. This week US congressman Joseph Kennedy said a quarter of the estimated 35m footballs made each year in Pakistan were stitched together by children working eight to 12 hours a day and earning as little as six cents an hour.
Mr Mian Habibullah, chairman of Pakistan's export promotion bureau, said recently: "Having labour laws is not enough. We have to enforce these laws to show the world that we are not encouraging child labour in our country."
Pakistan's provincial labour departments raided 7,003 businesses between January 1995 to March 1996, the labour ministry says.
The authorities prosecuted 2,538 employers of whom 395 were convicted and fined under child labour laws.
Mr Lasi said he had asked the authorities to ensure that violaters were sent to prison and not just fined. Punishment can range from a fine of Rs50,000 ($1,428) to five years in prison, he said.
The HRCP claims 10m children out of a population of 130m are employed in brick kilns, farms, carpet manufacturing, workshops and restaurants, working the same hours as adults, but getting paid much less.
The government does not accept the unofficial estimates of the child workforce and has ordered its own study jointly with the International Labour Organisation.
In 1990, Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that prohibits child labour, but legal experts say legislation needs to be enacted to implement it.