'Who do I go to, to get my daughter back?' -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

‘Who do I go to, to get my daughter back?’

In 2002, a man called Imam Mouli purchased Majida (not her real name) in Karachi for a sum of Rs50,000. Majida’s daughter, Amina, was also bought by the same man for Rs15,000. Mouli then took the two to his village, Qazi Ahmed (near Nawabshah).

Today Majida is ‘free,’ but her freedom came at a heavy price: she had to leave her daughter, six-year-old Amina, behind. She made a deal with her captor to set her free after she developed a serious skin infection on her hand which rendered her unable to work at the farm where she was kept. Till then, her chores included removing manure from the cattle pens. Today, Majida is back in Karachi, but her daughter still remains captive in Nawabshah.

Moreover, this was not the first deal in which Majida had been sold. Earlier, in a transaction that eventually fell through, she and her daughter were sold by her captor for Rs100,000 to a man in Korangi.

Human smuggling and the sale of people is something that continues in Pakistan despite official proclamations to the contrary. Hundreds, if not thousands, are sold into slavery or bondage every year while law-enforcement agencies look the other way.

Majida’s tale of woe started when she was smuggled into Pakistan from Bangladesh 12 years ago along with her minor son, Tufail alias Qulli. The two were part of a human-smuggling racket that has been in place for almost two decades. What is interesting about this slave trade is that despite the heavy fortification of borders by India and Pakistan, human smugglers manage to make people cross into Pakistan.

Majida tells The News why she came to Pakistan. In halting Urdu, she explains that she came here “for a better life; for a new beginning.” In retrospect, it seems that her life in Pakistan only got much worse and her tears never stop.

She hails from Chittagong, Bangladesh, where she said she was married to a man called Amir. It was from Amir that she bore her son, Tufail. But Amir died of TB in Bangladesh and someone suggested that she go to Pakistan for a better future for herself and her son. Majida contacted some people smugglers who got her across the border on foot as part of a caravan.

In Pakistan, Majida ended up like most Bangladeshi migrants in Karachi. And like most such illegal labourers, she started work in prawn processing factories in Machar Colony. Her relatives gave her shelter and she managed to get along by shelling shrimps.

It was here that she got married for a second time – to a fisherman called Siraj. The couple had a daughter called Amina. While Majida was now enjoying a good life, her son Tufail started to give her trouble and he would run away from home frequently.

But then bad luck struck. Five years ago, Majida and her one-year-old daughter were kidnapped from Machar Colony by a man called Meezan, also known as “Nano.” This happened when Siraj was on a fishing trip, which usually lasted for weeks.

Soon after, Nano sold the mother and daughter to an elderly man in Korangi. The middleman had received Rs100,000 for them.

The old man was not happy with his “purchase” however, and returned Majida and her daughter to Meezan who then sold her again, this time to Imam Mouli for Rs50,000. Amina was also sold to the same man for Rs15,000.

Today, Majida is back in Karachi but Amina is still with Imam Mouli. Illiterate, poor and barely able to get by, Majida asks who she should turn to in order to get her daughter back.

Mouli also claims to have “married” Majida but at the time of this marriage, Siraj was alive and thus the union was illegal. The only reason why Majida fled from the village near Nawabshah was to look for her son, who she had left behind in Karachi.

Her son, Tufail, who helped The News as an interpreter during conversations with his mother, himself narrated a great part of this tragic tale. He claims that Mouli came back recently to take them both back.

To encourage them to accompany him, Mouli brought Amina along as well. But when Majida and Tufail refused, he left and took Amina back with him. She has not been heard from since.
Source: The News
Date:3/15/2008