Online guide published to encourage sustainable business in Pakistan
KARACHI: “The reason why Pakistan suffers from rampant child labour is because the definition of a child varies to suit the needs of a few. Once it is universalised, then only will we be able to eradicate this social evil,” said Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler).
He was speaking at a press conference on Friday where an online guide to businesses operating in Pakistan was launched, with emphasis on how they may impact human rights in the country.
‘Pakistan Human Rights and Business Country Guide’ has been published in collaboration with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) and Piler, and the guide covers labour rights in the country, including child and forced labour, apart from investigating the state of occupational health and safety, trade unions and different working conditions in the country.
Emanuela Ranieri-Svendsen who worked on the report on behalf of DIHR, alongside Zeenia Shaukat of Piler, was present on Skype and spoke about how the guide “provides an overview of the impact of businesses in Pakistan on the labour force and their human rights”.
“We have tried to give space to the most vulnerable groups in the report,” she said. “Through this we aim to create awareness about human rights violations in businesses and provide a mechanism to redress these.”
Apart from targeting local and foreign businesses in the country, government officials and civil society organisations can also benefit from the guide. Karamat Ali believes that all stakeholders are equally responsible for upholding human rights in businesses. “The worker, consumer, citizen, businessman, industrialist as well as the state and its various institutions have liability in this respect and all should work together to bring about a positive change.”
Gathering data from more than 100 local and international sources, one of the major highlights of the guide concerns the challenges women in Pakistan face in the workplace. In 2012-2013, “the International Labour Organisation reported that in Pakistan women’s salary was about 60 per cent lower than men,” reads the report. “The law fails to recognise the concept of equal pay for equal work, and systematically, women earn less than men.”
The report also delves in to the various factors that expose women to sexual harassment in the work place, some of which include lack of transport as well as no separate bathrooms, eating and resting spaces.
Nazim Haji, businessman, entrepreneur and founding member of Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), spoke about the necessity of private businesses to take up this initiative to set a precedent.
“Unfortunately, as institutions in the country have deteriorated, so have the rights of the worker.”
Recalling his early years as an industrialist, “workers had access to basic health care and housing colonies. They no longer do so because of corruption and mismanagement, not lack of resources.”
Social responsibility among organisations has diminished completely, he lamented. To further this point, he cited the example of how the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board is dumping untreated sewage and industrial waste into the sea without any concern for the long-term repercussions this may have on the community and the environment.
Justice Majida Rizvi felt that the report is a “novel idea as it brings into focus how private enterprise has taken over social responsibility in society”.
She stressed that due to the water shortage being faced by many in the country, “companies operating in Pakistan should use water in a responsible and sustainable way. This report highlights such issues in a comprehensive manner”.
The guide also highlights the rights of the disabled worker, as well as takes into account how the volatile security situation in the country is negatively impacting different religious minorities in Pakistan.
‘Pakistan Human Rights and Business Country Guide’ is available on www.hrbcountryguide.org. Piler has also expressed the desire to make it more accessible by translating the guide into Urdu.