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.”

How can Pakistan create more jobs when it ranks at bottom for skills?’

Prime Minister Khan and his team may talk about creating jobs but as a recent study demonstrates, Pakistan’s problem is that it ranks at the bottom of the skills ladder. According to the inaugural edition of Coursera Global Skills Index 2019, one of the world’s largest skills data bases, Pakistan ranks at the bottom of the world’s top trending skills in Business, Technology and Data Science.

Of the 60 countries “benchmarked in the GSI 2019, Pakistan ranks 57 or close to the last in the domain of business. It does worse in Technology and Data Science domains ranking at 59, only a notch above Nigeria that sits at the bottom of the index. European countries are the global skills leader as per the index and feature in the top quartile (cutting-edge) but less advanced economies such as Pakistan feature as less-skilled and hug the bottom quartile (lagging) across the three skills domain.”

In Business, “Pakistan is at 5th percentile while in Technology and Data Science it sits even below at 2nd percentile – a country close to 100 percentile is at the top and one close to 0 percentile is at the bottom of the list.

“Asia Pacific is at the extremes of the global Business rankings with New Zealand (#6) and Australia (#9) approaching the very top, while Pakistan (#57) and Bangladesh (#59) land at the bottom.” (For details see page 5 of the report)

Also, “Pakistan’s global ranking is 57, in the bottom 5 percentile, for Business skills.” (for details please see page 9 of the report)

Further, “Pakistan’s global ranking is 59, in the bottom 2 percentile, for Technology.” (for details please see page 11 of the report)

Also, “Pakistan’s global ranking is 59, in the bottom 2 percentile, for Data Science.” (for details please see page 13 of the report)

According to a news story on the report “At the top, New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore rank well above the global average across Business, Technology, and Data Science. At the bottom, Bangladesh and Pakistan rank close to last globally in each of the domains,” it says. Referring to the countries close to the bottom, the report says “these countries spend less on education as a percentage of GDP and have higher proportions of low-skilled workers”. The GSI report comes at a time when the Fourth Industrial Revolution of automation and artificial intelligence is transforming the world of work.”

Finally, “With technology advancing faster than humans can adapt, the skills required to do most jobs are evolving quickly—a real challenge to the careers, companies, and countries that are fueled by them,” the report says. In order to keep pace with this change, it adds governments and businesses must develop their workforces to build, manage, and leverage new technologies.”

Pakistan espionage case becomes curiouser and curiouser

On May 30th, The Pakistan military released a statement that Army Chief General Bajwa had approved death sentences for two men – a retired brigadier general and a private physician – and life imprisonment for a third – a retired lieutenant general – after they were court-martialed on charges of espionage and revealing classified information to foreign intelligence agencies. The army refused to provide more details about what the three men had done and only said that they had been convicted on charges of espionage and divulging “sensitive information to foreign agencies prejudice to the national security.”

The real questions to ask are: one, who were these men spying for? Two, what was the nature of the espionage? And third, how much harm has been done to Pakistan’s interests. All these questions remain unanswered.

When Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the U.S. (2008-2011) and Pakistan army’s bete noire, Amb Husain Haqqani wrote an article titled “Espionage case shatters Pakistan army’s myths – and the belief its nuke secrets are secure” he said “The fact that senior military officers spied for a foreign country suggests that Pakistan is not as safe in the hands of the men in uniform as is suggested. If, as has been learnt, the secrets shared by the convicted officers are related to Pakistan’s nuclear program, the case would increase Pakistan’s paranoia about the security of its nuclear arsenal. Considering that the foreign intelligence service that paid for the secrets shared by the convicted officers belonged to the United States, there is a greater adversarial relationship between Pakistan and the US than is often revealed.

As Haqqani notes, “The espionage ring reached the highest levels of the Pakistani national security establishment. Lt Gen Iqbal served as Director of Military Operations, Corps Commander, and Adjutant General before retiring in 2015; the ‘sensitive organisation’ that employed Akram was one of the Pakistan’s many covert nuclear facilities. To my knowledge, there are several other individuals currently under investigation and there might be more courts-martial and more convictions down the line.”

Further, “The army is already trying to spin the case as proof of its internal checks and balances. An Inter-Services Public Relations press release only said that the three men had been convicted by a Field Court Martial on charges of espionage and divulging “sensitive information to foreign agencies prejudice to the national security.”

Finally, “The discovery of Pakistani military officers spying for the US on Pakistan’s nuclear programme also raises questions about the Pakistani establishment’s national security paradigm. Instead of the nukes guaranteeing Pakistan’s security against India, Pakistan must now worry about the security of its nuclear weapons against adversaries other than the Indians.”

In response to Haqqani’s OpEd, DGISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor tweeted

To which Haqqani replied

Pakistan Army Shoots at Peaceful PTM Protestors -Rerun of East Pakistan?’

On Sunday May 26, the Pakistan army shot at peaceful Pashtun Tahaffuz movement (PTM) supporters and activists in North Waziristan. A large group of PTM supporters, led by their two MNAs, had been on their way to a sit-in protesting recent arrests and searches by the military.

In a statement Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesman, warned PTM leaders “You have enjoyed all the liberty that you wanted to.” As the New York Times reported “the military sees the movement as being propped up by foes of the state and accuses neighboring Afghanistan and India of trying to stir up unrest with support of the movement in areas straddling the Afghan border.”

The PTM denied the accusations and “said military personnel had fired indiscriminately on the protesters. Mr. Dawar, a lawmaker representing the area, said in an audio message sent to journalists that the protesters had managed to cross the checkpoint because they outnumbered the soldiers there. But then, he said, they heard firing from above. He said troops fired in the air, then directly at the protesters, injuring about 30, including himself. The lawmaker Mr. Wazir and eight others were arrested and will be charged with inciting violence against the state under antiterrorism laws, the government official said. Mr. Dawar was not arrested.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has demanded a parliamentary commission to investigate what happened in Waziristan. In astatement that was issued, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed alarm at “the use of military force causing deaths of at least three Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) activists in North Waziristan. HRCP believes that this will further escalate tensions between PTM supporters and security institutions, consequently leading to a permanent wedge between the people of tribal districts and the state. This will be detrimental to the interests of the country and its citizens. HRCP demands the release of MNA Ali Wazir and any other activists taken into custody. It also calls for a parliamentary commission to be set up immediately to inquire into the matter and establish the truth. There must be a serious attempt to genuinely address the grievances of the local population, which the PTM has been articulating peacefully for well over a year. Moreover, with the passage of the 26th Constitutional Amendment, the state must ensure that the media and civil society have independent access to the former FATA. The country’s mainstream media must also understand its responsibility to report on this region fairly.”

Zainab and Farishta deserved better: need to protect children in a brutal society

Children are always the most vulnerable elements on society and need more protection. On Tuesday the body of a 10-year old girl, Farishta, was found from Shahzad Town in Islamabad. Farishta had been raped and then her body thrown in the forest. This is not the first such incident in which a minor girl was raped and left for dead. Last year, seven-year-old Zainab was kidnapped from near her aunt’s house in Kasur and five days later her body was found in a garbage heap.

According to news reports, “The girl’s family which belongs to Mohmand Agency said they had reported her missing to the police on May 15 after she had left the house to get Iftar. The family claims it took the police till May 19 to register an FIR and even then a proper search was not launched. The body of the minor was discovered by locals who then informed the police. The 10-year-old’s body was moved to Poly Clinic for post mortem, however, till now it had not been conducted. To protest against police negligence in the case, the family of the victim protested with her body at Taramari Chowk.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement that it was “appalled to learn that ten-year-old Farishta, who disappeared from her home on 15 May in Islamabad, was found dead earlier today, allegedly raped and murdered. There is a chilling resemblance to the case of seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur, which points to an increasingly brutal society in which children are abused and discarded at whim. This is one of at least seven cases to have surfaced in recent months, with reports of children as young as two having been raped. Some were left to return home and live with the trauma they had undergone. Others were killed and their bodies similarly dumped, leaving their families to relive their ordeal. The NGO Sahil’s recent report indicates that over 3,800 children were subjected to some form of abuse in 2018 – with 11 percent more cases reported than in 2017. It is critical that stronger, more vigilant mechanisms be enforced to protect young children – and young girls in particular – who are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Both police stations, the hospitals where such cases are examined, the courts and society overall must become more child-friendly and willing to provide the protection and support that both children and their families need in such circumstances. No society can afford to be this callous where its children are concerned.”