Iqbal Masih – the teenage hero

“And do not kill your children for the fear of want or poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them” [Qur’an 6:151]

Clearly, Allah forbids the brutal killing of our young blood, accounting for their innocence, yet, the people so commanded have proved to be entirely negligent of it over the past few decades. Instead of reflecting on the deep rooted significance behind the verse, a command which is repeated over and over in the Holy Book, we have moved a step forward in ruthlessness by putting our kids through something even worse than straight out killing them.

We hand them over for a whole life worth of monetary slavery. We force them into serving others, not because they should but because they have to. Killing whatever self respect one has at such a tender age, such kids are victimized by what we call “child labor”.

Consider getting burned to death against working twenty four hours for seven days a week in the scorching heat, without a hope of going home to a welcoming meal or a comfy bed.
Consider getting suffocated to death against listening to your parents scold you every night for not earning much. What choice would they make?

Get this, children who’re bound to work at the cost of their dignity, independence, much deserved love and all basic rights, are dying every second of every day. Here, I share with you the story of a young boy, belonging to none other than our own homeland, The Islamic Republic Of Pakistan. A boy named Iqbal Masih, made a victim of bonded labor at an age when we expect ‘our’ kids to play and laugh and enjoy every bit of what’s left of their childhood.

Iqbal Masih was born to a rural family just outside of Lahore in 1983. He was sold into bonded labor at a very early age to a local employer who owned a carpet weaving business. His father had borrowed money from the employer for wedding of Iqbal’s brother and to repay the loan, Iqbal had to work as a bonded labor.  He worked daily for 12 hours, 7 days a week. And then managed to escape when he was ten but was caught and brought by the police (no other) to his native place. Then, he was sent again to the carpet weaver.

He escaped again and this time he joined Bonded Labour Liberation Front of Pakistan. He worked with them to free the children like himself and was successful in freeing about 3000 children. He was shot dead in 1995 when he was only 11 years old. His death remains a controversy as some claim he was shot dead by carpet weaving mafia while others say he was shot dead by a farmer. However, his legacy lives on, and United States Department of Labor has an annual award in his honor: The Iqbal Masih Award.

The little boy and the effort he made is least recognized in his own country but we, today, raise a voice to revive the memory so heart rending yet inspirational. Hats off to the boy who did more good in his short life than most of us have ever done. As an act of appreciation, lets try and eradicate what we fear the most for own kids. Lets nurture the heroes within us, the patriots, the revolutionists in the memory of Iqbal Masih. Let’s take a step forward to being a better nation who stands and speaks up for its future, its children.

Minal Maqbool Malik 
Punjab College for Women

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