06/12/2008, 00.00
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Pakistan, only government can win fight against child labour

by Qaiser Felix
On the occasion of the World Day against child labour, the Church condemns the phenomenon and asks the government for a genuine effort to combat it. Ashir, aged 7, doesn't mention the Day: he is too busy working in the auto shop where he was hired one year ago.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Like many other countries, Pakistan is also observing the World Day against child labour today.  Various human rights groups have organised demonstrations and meetings to sensitise the population to the problem, but unfortunately thousands of children are working, even today, without knowing that their own lives are in focus.

Ashir, aged 7, has been working in an auto shop in front of my house for more than a year.  I see him every morning, and we greet each other: today he doesn't have much time to talk, since he has a lot of work to do and his employer doesn't want him to talk about "useless things" like this Day. Ashir has never gone to school, and hasn't even visited one.  He has always thought about work, in order to earn money to bring home: he doesn't even know the meaning of the term "child labour".  As of now, he is earning less than 10 dollars a month, because he is "in an apprenticeship".  But he is an optimist, because he knows that in a few years he will be able to earn a little bit more.

Like him, hundreds of thousands of Pakistani children work all over the country, without any awareness of their rights.  Human rights activist Nadeem Anthony says, "Child labour is a critical social problem in Pakistan. The government should make serious efforts to eliminate it, instead of finding ways to justify its existence".

The secretary of the biblical commission of the bishops' conference, Fr Emmanuel Asi, adds: "The Church condemns this evil, which we must confront very seriously.  Unfortunately, the engine of child labour is poverty, which dominates the entire country.  In order to eat, everyone works".  Although the problem is widespread, he continues, "it is particularly severe in rural areas and in the interior of the Sindh province.  There, the children are involved in shady and extremely dangerous activities.  Although the NGO's are making great efforts to address the situation, it cannot be resolved without real action by the government.  This is the only force that can defeat it".

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