Pakistan bonded labourers
Veero Kolhi,a freed slave labourer turned election candidate, carries a digging implement on her shoulder as she walks out of her home to work in field on the outskirts of the city of Hyderabad in Pakistan's Sindh province Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

A Pakistani man has been accused of running a "private jail" for slave labourers for more than five years during which he and his family members reportedly sexually assaulted female inmates.

Thirteen individuals have been freed by police on Wednesday, 13 December, after the illegal camp was raided in the village of Ramji Kohli near Nagarparkar, a mountainous town in Pakistan's Sindh province. A local court had ordered the raid after it was suspected that Rahim Ali Khoso was running a "private jail" and keeping the inmates as slave labourers.

Among the victims, there were four women and children. They alleged they were sexually abused by Ali Khoso and his family members when they were kept in captivity, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Dharmoon Kohli, a relative of the victims, had earlier approached the court against Ali Khoso pleading for using the police to get his his family members freed. Kohli told reporters that his relatives have been imprisoned and forced to work in agriculture fields without any payment. The victims are expected to be produced in the Sindh High Court on Thursday, 14 December.

Slave labour is reportedly widespread in Pakistan both in rural and urban areas, especially in the agriculture sector, with studies pointing out that the government needs to step up their efforts to curb the inhuman practice. The government had enacted a law in 1992 to ban the practice, but to little avail.

In 2014, the Global Slavery Index Report had estimated that more than one percent of the Pakistani population, roughly 185.1 million, could have been enslaved with the provinces Punjab and Sindh identified as hotspots.