Ehsan Ullah Khan

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Ehsan Ullah Khan
Ehsan i.e.s Antón Fraguas, Santiago de Compostela , Spain.jpg
Ehsan giving a speech in a high school in Sweden
Born Muhammad Ehsan Ullah Khan
(1947-02-09) February 9, 1947 (age 71)
Gwadar, Baluchistan
Nationality Pakistan
Education Journalist
Alma mater Punjab University
Occupation Human Rights Activist

Muhammad Ehsan Ullah Khan (born in Gwadar, Balochistan, February 9, 1947) is the founder of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) of Pakistan, an organization that has freed more than 100,000 slaves in its country.

Khan was the founder and president of Brick Kiln Workers Front, and BLLF Global, a human rights organization that opposes slavery and child slavery in Pakistan and South Asia. He is the national coordinator of Global March in Sweden.

In 1992 he freed Iqbal Masih, who was working in the carpet industry.[1] On April 16, 1995 Iqbal was assassinated. The murder brought to light the work of those who had been denouncing that millions of children all over the world could not attend school because they had become profitable for big corporations that exploited them. Khan was the pioneer on this campaign.[2]

He has raised slavery issues in the United Nations, through the Working Group for Contemporary Forms of Slavery and in International Labour Organization (ILO).[3] Khan has been a speaker at many Conferences; he has been mentioned in many books, interviewed by a large number of social media, summoned to make a film on Iqbal's life, has been the leader of campaigns and the one who proposed Iqbal for Reebok international award in Boston.


Ullah Khan studied journalism at Punjab University, in Lahore. While still a student, he began to organize brick kiln workers so that they rebelled against slavery. After meeting Babba Kaala he became aware of the drama of slavery in his country. His daughters had been kidnapped by the owner of the kiln on the pretext of not receiving the monthly installment on the debt the old man had incurred.[4]

Foundation of Bhatta Mazdor Mahaz[edit]

In September 1967 he formed Bhatta Mazdor Mahaz (BMM). The BMM was not only organizing actions and demonstrations of different kind against bonded system of labor, but it was also providing legal aid to give basic human rights to the bonded workers at the brick kilns for the first time in the history of South Asia. Forced labor was common among many other groups, like agriculture, carpet making, and mine workers.

In 1987, he mobilized some workers to present their cause to the Supreme Court of Justice. It was as a result of the pressure exerted by Ehsan and his movement that in 1988 a law declared peshgi (debt bondage system) illegal.[5]

Iqbal Masih's liberation[edit]

It was the BLLF that freed Iqbal from slavery, as well as other 40,000 children in Pakistan, and it was Khan who put the fight against children slavery up for discussion once slavery had been abolished in his country, twenty years after he had started his abolitionist struggle.

When Ehsan met Iqbal the boy was shy and afraid, but Khan realized he had many thing to tell.

Khan feels that non violence is the best of paths. The importance of the role of children is emphasized in his development strategy, which is that "the victims should be empowered". Khan states that "those children, who get a basic education, knowledge about their rights, and hope for their future, will themselves eliminate the slavery".[6]

Imprisonment and torture[edit]

Working as a journalist, he was arrested many times due to his activities for human rights and the freedom of press. In 1982 he went to jail for six months and kept in confinement in a dark cell in the torture camp of Lahore Fort during Zia ul Haq's decade-long dictatorship from 1978 to 1988. He was arrested and tortured after he had written an article about the genetic development of biological warfare germs in a government-controlled laboratory in Lahore. Because of the torture he lost almost all his hearing from one ear. In an article, he denounced how bonded brick kiln workers had been used as guinea pigs and died due to experiments in a secret research project. The charge against him was high treason, which carried the death penalty.

In December 1994, he accompanies Iqbal to the United States to receive an International Award in Boston, Massachusetts. They visit Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy,[7] where after knowing about Iqbal's murder, some students start a campaign to raise money for a School in Pakistan,[8] that eventually was open in February, 1997 with the support of tens of thousands of children from all the 50 states in the United States.[9]


Khan has been in exile in Europe since April 16, 1995, after the murder of Iqbal Masih.[10] Since he was forced to stay in Europe, he founded BLLF Global in 1996, to fight against slavery and child slavery all over the world. Although his intention is to return to Pakistan and continue his work with his organization. He applies for a visa every year at the embassy, but it is repeatedly denied. The sedition case was quashed in Lahore High Court on November 28, 2001, when the judge declared that the case was unlawful and the allegation was false. However, the Pakistani government still does not allow him to return to Pakistan.

As Kailash Satyarthi, Peace Nobel Prize 2014, said about Ullah Khan, in May 7, 2015:[11]

Iqbal Masih was a martyr of child slavery but the man by my side is a martyr himself. No one fighting for children's rights has suffered as much as he has.

Ehsan is the only person exiled from his country for his struggle against child slavery. He sacrificed everything for the cause: his family, his profession, his friends and his network of schools all over Pakistan. He has been in jail 12 times and has been tortured several times, which caused him a slight deafness. His government accused him of high treason and condemned him to death penalty for denouncing that in his country there were children working for foreign companies

I am proud to have so many good friends; some of them are just like family members. Ranging from Ehsan Ullah Khan, the great pioneer in the history of the movement against bonded labor and child labor in Pakistan.[12]

In May 2014 he attended the First International Congress on Combating Unemployment, Exploitation and Slavery, organized by the SAIn political Party (Solidarity, Self-Management and Internationalism) in Spain. The Congress Breaking Chains brought together for four days activists from several organizations that promote the fight against injustice from non-violence. Organized by party SAIn,[13] hosted more than 220 congressmen come from different parts of the Spain and with speakers from four continents. Experiences as Ekta Parishad in India, the Foundation La Alameda in Argentina or the Bonded Labour Liberation Front in Pakistan were very present.[14]

April 2016 Ehsan had a great presence in the Canary Islands. He gave speeches in many High Schools (Instituto de Jimanar,[15] Instituto La Rocha, Instituto Santa Brígida, Instituto Tomás Morales). Antonio Morales, Gran Canary Cabildo President, held a reception to Ehsan Ullah Khan, at the Cabildo Headquarters. Carmen Hernández, Telde Mayor; The Society of mayors of the North of Gran Canariaheld; Dunia González, Mayor of Santa Lucía held him receptions and also, an Iqbal Masih tribute act with students from the Telde High Schools, at the San Juan park next to the Iqbal Masih monument.

He participated at the ESPAL (Encuentro de Solidaridad con los Pueblos de África y Latinoamérica-Latin América and Africa People Solidarity Meeting-) activities.[16]

He had a meeting in May 2018 with Vitoria's Bishop, Juan Carlos Elizalde, who wrote him a recommendation letter to other Bishops, in order to open their Dioceses to his testimony.

Encuentro entre Ehsan Ullah Khan y el Obispo de Vitoria Juan Carlos Elizalde


  1. ^ With Ehsan Ullah Khan, Iqbal Masih's friend
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lefebvre, Alain (1995). Islam, Human Rights and Child Labour in Pakistan. NIAS Press. p. 36. ISBN 9788787062466.
  4. ^ [1] Kailash Satyarthi’s Pakistan connection
  5. ^
  6. ^ Rodriguez, Junius P. (2011). Slavery in the Modern World. California: ABC-Clio. ISBN 9781851097838.
  7. ^ Freedom Hero: Iqbal Masih
  8. ^ A bullet can't kill a dream. A school for Iqbal
  9. ^ A School for Iqbal
  10. ^ Ehsan Ullah Khan recuerda a Iqbal Masih
  11. ^ Peace Nobel Prize 2014, Kailash Satyarthi, in A Coruña
  12. ^
  13. ^ {}
  14. ^ Ekta Parishad Attends Breaking Chains Congress in Spain
  15. ^ Visita Muhammad Ehsan Ullah Khan
  16. ^ Entrevista-con-ehsan-ullah-khan-en-radio-galdar

External links[edit]