A recent collection of photographs and audio tapes documents the harsh working lives of those who labour in the coal, salt, and other mines of Pakistan. Part of an ongoing project by Ahmad Saleem and his team from Islamabad, the collection provides insights into the working and living conditions, struggles, and outlook of the men, women, and children who earn their living in Pakistan's large mining sector. Covering mines in different provinces, it provides unique material on labour relations, patterns of labour migration, and the implementation of labour laws in Pakistani mines.
Ahmad Saleem's project is the first study that looks at the incidence of bonded labour in the Pakistani mining industry. Of all the industrial areas where there is bonded labour, mining appears to have received the least attention. This despite the fact that conditions in the Pakistani mining sector must be regarded as amongst the most hazardous.
Mining operations take place throughout Pakistan's four provinces. The sensitive nature of the research and its relatively brief time span necessitated that Ahmad Saleem choose those mine sites he was familiar with and where he had some personal contacts: these sites represent a cross-section of mining operations throughout Pakistan.
In all, the group visited some 50 mines, and interviewed over one hundred mineworkers, as well as more than a dozen mineowners and their agents over a period of 35 days. They were also able to interview family members of miners and hold meetings with federal and provincial government officials concerned with the mining sector, with representatives of trade unions, opinion leaders, and social scientists.
The research focuses on labour contracts between the various parties. The roles and relations between the actors in the recruitment system are examined in some detail. It takes into account the labour arrangements and the external factors that indirectly influence them. Ahmad Saleem recorded the results of his research in a report Rapid Assessment in Bonded Labour in Pakistan's Mining Sector. This project will greatly increase knowledge about the situation of workers in the mining industry in Pakistan.
The collection consists of about 100 pictures, 22 audiotapes, 2 videotapes, and 2 minidiscs with interviews. You can find works by Ahmad Saleem in the IISH catalogue. This selection of photos can also be found in the catalogue.