The Eastern Leather Company produce cow and buffalo hide leathers for footwear, leathergoods and upholstery for export and are regular exhibitors to international trade shows. They also have a textile division within the group.

The killing of the factory owner, Najeeb Zafar in Sheikhupura at the hands of an angry mob took place in the presence of unarmed policemen, says the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which conducted a fact-finding mission into the incident.

The HRCP team found out that on August 4 the police had arrived at the scene at Eastern Leather Factory, Muridke, when company director, Najeeb Zafar, was in his office and had been wounded in a scuffle with some angry workers.

Eyewitnesses told the HRCP team that the police hid Zafar in a storeroom so as to keep him away from the violent workers.

The policemen who arrived at the scene were unarmed and could not prevent the violent crowd of villagers outside the factory from entering the factory premises. When the provoked villagers and the factory workers teamed up to storm the storeroom. The mob beat the owner to death. A labourer, Muzammil, also lost his life after a stray bullet hit him.

The HRCP team allege that a factory clerk, Qasim Ali, exaggerated a calendar inscribed with verses from the Koran as desecration of the Holy Koran to instigate his fellow workers against the owner.

Soon after this, extremist elements in Muridke area made provocative announcements of the alleged desecration of the Holy Koran from the mosques of nearby villages without confirming the facts and this incited the common people to attack the factory owner and kill him.

The HRCP observed that after the incident, a widespread fear existed among factory owners in the region that the spread of such rumours by unhappy workers against an owner may result in a similar incident.

Zafar’s family told the HRCP team that they wanted the repeal of the blasphemy law for it had been abused by the extremists to achieve their own objectives and spread violence.

The HRCP also demanded of the Punjab government hold special refresher courses for police to handle such delicate situations.

The HRCP team was informed that there were more than 500 workers in the factory but there existed no trade union or workforce representation. It believed had there been a trade union, it would have worked to channel and resolve grievances of the workers and prevent such a violent incident.

Source: The Dawn Media Group