Is Pakistani Women Trafficking to China part of Devil’s Bargain with ‘All-weather Friend?’

A state’s strength is viewed in its ability to protect the weakest among its citizens, not the strongest and Pakistan has consistently let down its minorities, religious, ethnic and even gender based.

In May 2019, an investigative report by the Associated Press reported how “hundreds of poor Christian girls who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year, activists say. Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.”

According to AP “Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither, according to several brides, their parents, an activist, pastors and government officials, all of whom spoke to The Associated Press. Once in China, the girls — most often married against their will — can find themselves isolated in remote rural regions, vulnerable to abuse, unable to communicate and reliant on a translation app even for a glass of water.”

In its latest report AP follows up on this to show how Pakistani “police investigations have uncovered that many of the women are forced into prostitution in China. A picture of the extent of the trafficking networks has emerged from a series of arrests and raids in recent weeks by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, as well as testimony from victims, many of whom were previously too frightened to come forward. Families are told their daughters will be wed to well-off businessmen and given good lives in China, and the marriage trade is depicted as a benefit for all sides — impoverished parents receive money, while Chinese men find brides in a country where men outnumber women. But investigators are increasingly convinced that the majority of the girls are sold into prostitution, two law enforcement officials familiar with the investigations told the AP. “The girls who are interviewed say they were tortured” — using a euphemism for rape and forced prostitution, said one of the officials. “They are afraid for their families and for the disgust they fear they will feel. … Make no mistake, this is trafficking.”

However, the close relationship with China, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the desire to not upset Beijing means that “even as investigators are uncovering the scope of the trade, the Pakistani government has sought to keep it quiet. Senior government officials have ordered investigators to remain silent about the trafficking because they don’t want to jeopardize Pakistan’s increasingly close economic relationship with China, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity for that reason.”

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