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Pakistan Foundation Aims to Stop Exploitation Of Child Laborers

In the opinion-page article ''Iqbal Masih's Life -- a Call to Human Rights Vigilance,'' May 3, the author incorrectly states that there are ''20 million bonded and child laborers'' in Pakistan. This is not true since the total labor force in Pakistan is 40 million. It must also be stated that cases of child labor do not generally exist in the formal manufacturing sector. The small enterprises of the informal sector that resort to child labor practices generally hide them from law enforcement agencies because of the restrictive conditions prohibiting the employment of minors.

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To prevent the use of child labor, which is illegal under our Constitution, Pakistan has agreed to establish the Rug Mark Foundation (RMF) with the help of the International Labor Organization and other United Nations agencies. The foundation will issue a certificate confirming that the carpets being exported from Pakistan are not manufactured by bonded child labor. The murder of Iqbal Masih has been condemned by all quarters in the country. His tragic killing was caused by a local feud and not by carpet industry magnates, as is being alleged.

The author also distorts reality when he says ''most people who are bonded and enslaved are converted Muslims ... outside the mainstream of Sunni Islamic society.'' Islam does not believe in slavery and exploitation. It is poverty, not the nature of their religious beliefs, which is the underlying cause of the exploitation of children in Pakistan.

Syed Rifaat Hussain


Press Minister

Embassy of Pakistan

The Bosnia tragedy

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We are all overwhelmed with pain and rage watching the horrible tragedy in Oklahoma City. Yet identical horrors have been occurring daily on a greater scale in Bosnia.

In a civilzed, sophisticated country in the middle of Europe, citizens have been reduced to living like rats. As many as 200,000 of Bosnia's helpless civilians have been methodically slaughtered over the past four years while we helplessly observe on our televisions. The message to all decent citizens of the world has been that it's all right to slaughter helpless people in the middle of Europe.

Anthony Badaglia

Santa Barbara, Calif.

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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