Pakistan's slave trade: Andrew Bushell describes the fate of Afghan refugees falling into the hands of Pakistani slave traders.
Servitude exists in many forms in Pakistan. Over the past two decades, hundreds of thousands of Afghan families -- eager to flee 20 years of war and three years of drought -- have sought safe haven in Pakistan, only to spend the rest of their lives working to pay off the debts they accumulated to get there. They do so by becoming indentured laborers, often at brick factories, and by sending their children to carpet factories that crave small fingers. Indentured servitude is not only legal but ubiquitous in Pakistan, and servant culture thrives: the wealthy can have a driver, three maids, a cook, and a night watchman for less than $75 a month.
And then there are the slaves. Many Afghan families cross into Pakistan through the lawless tribal areas in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). It's a harsh climate, and they have no contacts, no food, and no money, which leaves them wide open to the predations of slavers. Pakistan's tribal areas -- there are seven in the NWFP and several autonomous cities -- are the last vestiges of the British Raj's failure to conquer Afghanistan. A series of agreements ("treaties" is perhaps too strong a word) includes the tribal areas as part of Pakistan, but confirm their complete autonomy from Pakistani law. The political culture, dominated by councils of fiercely independent tribal elders, hasn't really changed in over 600 years -- only now every house has several machine guns, and most have electricity.
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