KARACHI: Fateh Shah Arif, General Secretary All Pakistan Mines and Mineral Association (APMMA) welcomed the participants and said that the mining sector in Balochistan has the potential to develop itself but due to various reasons like no social justice, lack of education and no support from the government, its potential could never be realized. At the opening session of the capacity building program for the All-Pakistan Mines and Minerals Association (APMMA), hosted by the Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP) in support with the International Labour Organization (ILO) at the Quetta Chamber of Commerce & Industry (QCCI), he vividly talked about the promotion and creation of awareness on the rising issue of forced and child labor in the mining sector.

Mr. Fateh also emphasized the importance of enhancing stakeholder engagement in Balochistan, particularly within the informal sectors and highlighted the pressing necessity to create institutional development, commending the efforts made by the APMMA.

Syed Nazar Ali, Secretary General Employers Federation of Pakistan explained the background of the program and acknowledged the support of the ILO towards building the capacity and raising awareness regarding forced labor for the mine owners and members of the APMMA. He highlighted that strong and independent employers create better working conditions at the workplaces and are also a collective Voice of Business to raise and advance business agenda.

He further explained that, since 1950 (EFP) has been an apex body of employers, ready to protect, promote and project employers’ interest in order to create best business practices and develop organizations of employers. With 34 trade bodies and nearly 900 members (EFP) assures a strong and robust relation with the informal sector of mining. He also apprised the participants by showing some of the achievements by (EFP) and explained about the important roles such as promoting principles and rights at work (FPRW) to realize decent work and to ensure that businesses fulfill their responsibilities. These roles included building compliance for employers’ organizations, creating participation in international events, and facilitating social justice for all.

Dr. Faisal Iqbal, National Project Coordinator International Labour Organization (ILO), facilitated in this session and explained about the project, emphasizing on the purpose to raise awareness and build capacity of the mine owner and associated with the All-Pakistan Mines & Minerals Association. He delved conversation onto promoting decent work for all and creating Labor rights advocacy, technical support, research, data collection, promotion of social dialogue, and capacity building initiatives, which aimed to identify how the (ILO’s) involvement could help mine owners in Khuzdar, Loralai, Chagai, and Quetta to mitigate the issue of forced and child labor effectively.

Syed Abdul Ahad, Vice President of the Quetta Chamber of Commerce & Industry (QCCI) appreciated the efforts of the EFP and the ILO in promoting responsible business practices and social dialogue amongst the stakeholders. He also discussed the condition of the deteriorating mines and the mining society present in many major areas of Balochistan and requested support form (EFP) and (ILO) in order to rejuvenate the socio-economic conditions of Balochistan province to sustainable practices.

Agha Gul Khilji, Quetta, Senior Vice President Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI), underscored the discrepancy in portraying the mining sector’s accomplishments in Quetta and pledged full support for the EFP and APMMA to foster employers’ dedication in enhancing the conditions of bonded labor within the mining industry.

An open Q & A session was held with the mine owners and members of APMMA to address critical issues facing Pakistan’s mining sector. Syed Nazar Ali from EFP, Dr. Faisal Iqbal from ILO, Pir Muhammad Kakar and Razam Khan from PWF, Syed Abdul Ahad from QCCI, and Fateh Shah Arif from APMMA engaged in fruitful discussions regarding urgent need to mitigated all sorts of labour enlargement from the mines of Balochistan.

During this Open Q&A Session mine owners discussed and apprised about the critical issues faced to the owners and to the people associated with the sector, such as the urgent need for advanced rescue equipment and skill development along with improved sanitation facilities for miners.

It was agreed that a tripartite session between government employers and workers will be held in June 2024, to review and share the findings of the research made by the consultant highlighting prevalence of forced child and forced labour in the mining sector.