In a previous article, we questioned why even after two years nothing substantial has yet been done with the $2.3 million that were raised by Humans of New York (HONY) and donated to Syeda Gulam Fatima of Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF).
Fatima has still not provided the audits of the accounts, nor has she provided us with any proof that an architectural firm or civil engineering company has been engaged in for making the project.
We hold no personal grudges against Syeda Ghulam Fatima and BLLF. Syeda Ghulam Fatima is privy to the fact that this reporter first reached out to her to uncover her sufferings and difficulties in leading the mission against bonded labour in Pakistan. Our initial intention was to do a feel-good story about the amazing work Fatima may have done with HONY donations. We requested her to take us to the freedom centres as well as allow us to cover rescue operations.
Our skepticism regarding the process of construction of the building and lack of transparency began when we observed Fatima’s disregard for our constant requests to show us concrete materialization of her projects. We have concrete evidence in the form of recordings, screenshots and emails for this.
However, a new character, Fazeelat Aslam emerged soon after the publication of the report. Fazeelat has lamented the fact that she was not contacted before publishing our report.
We were not aware who Fazeelat was and what was her legal relation with the BLLF nor did Fatima mention her at any point during our two-month long correspondence. Had we known that Fazeelat was supposed to be our point of contact for BLLF, we would not have hesitated to get in touch.
It turns out that Fazeelat Aslam is a US-based documentary maker currently raising funds to make a feature documentary on Fatima. She is currently in the process of raising money from financiers in USA and Canada and wants to raise a significant amount of money from abroad to make a documentary that, one might hope, will win many awards. She is not employed by BLLF as their spokesperson, or in fact in any capacity whatsoever.
In the article on Mangobaaz which calls our investigation into question, Fazeelat fails to mention that she has been raising funds from abroad to film her documentary on Fatima. Calling into question BLLF’s integrity may affect her ability to raise these funds.
We don’t find ourselves responsible if our report has affected the fundraising of Fazeelat’s upcoming documentary on Fatima.
However, Fatima and her organisation, and now Fazeelat, have failed to provide any public audits of the company.
They have failed to provide any documentation to prove that someone was hired to construct a $2.3 million structure.
It is a standard construction practice to dig a foundation before constructing a building. Why is it that after two years such a foundation has not been dug even though Fatima claims construction started a year ago?
Fazeelat also claims that the building is supposed to end by the end of 2017. However, the location that we photographed in the previous article shows no sign of progress and cannot be done by the end of 2017.
Even the foundation of the building has not yet been dug. In the whole area, there is just a small 4 marla unfinished structure which completely negates all claims if completion by the end of 2017.
The Mangobaaz article also invoked the same old predictable excuse: “we have been unable to work due to the security situation.”
Fazeelat Aslam has also tried to pressurize this reporter to retract the previous story. However, we will not retract the previous story because it tells the accurate story of our interaction with Syeda Ghulam Fatima and her organization.
On the other hand, British lawyer Wajieh Syed is planning to file a class-action lawsuit against Fatima on the behalf of his clients who have donated to the charity. While Fatima has so far failed to provide any documentary evidence to us so far, such legal action makes it likely that she would have to produce some documentation sooner or later.
We have asked Fatima several times before to provide us with the audit reports but she has been constantly hiding details from us. Even after asking repeatedly, she never told us how much funds have been used.
Fatima contended that for the ‘sustainability’ of the project, she would need more funds.
Meanwhile, Fazeelat has claimed that she will respond to all the allegations in her documentary which she is raising funds for, refusing point-blank to address any of our allegations at the present point in time.
Fazeelat also said that the funds raised by HONY were not only meant to be utilized for “freedom centers”. This is also contradictory to BLLF’s own website’s claims where it is stated that the funds raised through HONY will only be used for constructing freedom centers. There is no mention of any other project.
Fazeelat also claims that this facility will be finished by 2017. One look at the photographs below makes it clear that there is no way that this 4 marla structure will be converted to a large 25500 sq ft facility that includes a school, a medical center and residential areas by the end of the year.
Fazeelat has also claimed in the Mangobaaz article that she is “someone who really knows Fatima.” The reality is that Fazeelat has not even been living in the country since 2012 and the only ‘work’ she has done with Fatima has been to film her on a few occasions. Her claim that she has been working with Fatima for six years is extremely misleading. She has not worked on bhatta mazdoors with Fatima, as one might be lead to believe. The scope of her work was limited to shooting documentaries, first for SOC in 2012, then later for Vice.
Still, we continue to ask Fatima, and now Fazeelat since she is taking such an active interest in the matter, to provide us and the whole world with the audit reports, work orders, the name of construction firm and any substantial proofs that HONY funds are being properly utilized.