Two years ago when Brandon Stanton of HONY (Humans of New York) came to Pakistan, he highlighted the story of Syeda Ghulam Fatima, General Secretary of Lahore based Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF). He talked about her focus and her efforts for eradication of bonded labor in Pakistan and also appealed to the world for donations to help her cause.
The world gathered together through HONY’s Facebook page and within a few days a total of $2,300,000 USD equivalent to approx. 24 crore Pakistani rupees was raised for the cause. Fatima was seen as the hero- in fact hailed as Harriet Tubman (an abolitionist who helped free seventy slaves after the American Civil War and also received Clinton Global Citizen Award) of Pakistan. Donations flooded in when Fatima’s efforts gained attention and acknowledgment around the world.
But were they actually put to use or swept under the rug just like the relief that came pouring into Pakistan after the 2008 earthquake?
To be honest, none of us have a clue. The official website of the organization has not been updated since forever and nobody, and we mean nobody, has an idea about what’s happening. The donations have perhaps been put to some other “uses” rather than the development and setting up of the projected called “Freedom Center” which was promised .
The NGO is insistent that the first center is being built on Raiwind Road but when investigations were carried out on part of a notable daily, all that came through was the plan and its existence in photographs and documentations only.
Syeda Ghulam Fatima has ever since been absent and refrains from giving any comments. According to the lady, she is not at liberty to disclose any information to the public about the project or the whereabouts of the so-called “Freedom Center”.
On insistence and persistence from the daily, the lady had to give in and the team was taken to the unit being constructed for bonded labor relief on the outskirts of Lahore. And as it appears, the “grand” facility is nothing more than a shabby under construction building that spans an area of not more than 4 marla.
Whatever the NGO has shown is quite dismal and entirely contrary to what they promised. What is ironic is the fact that the so called center is surrounded by brick kilns and we fail to understand the logic of constructing a dingy rescue center near the only brick kilns from which the labor is seeking refuge.
We’re quite disappointed by the way things have turned out. It is quite evident that everything has been kept hushed and the perhaps all donations received have gone somewhere they weren’t intended for. Or maybe they were. Who knows? We cannot question these established set ups because the its an entire mafia intent on corruption and what are we to intervene when the higher authorities aren’t bothered.
But what we’re feeling bad about and really embarrased about is having let down the entire world in the name of bonded labor relief. The world placed its trust on Syeda Ghulam Fatima and her foundation and she again turned out to be another member of the corruption gang that’s focused on looting Pakistan for their own benefits.