Investigators put together the list of 629 women from Pakistan’s integrated border
management system, which digitally records travel documents at the country’s airports. The information includes the brides’ national identity numbers, their Chinese husbands’ names and the dates of their marriages.
All but a handful of the marriages took place in 2018 and up to April 2019. One of the senior officials said it was believed
all 629 were sold to grooms by their families.
It is not known how many more women
and girls were trafficked since the list was put together. But the official said, “the lucrative trade continues.” He spoke to the AP in an interview conducted hundreds of kilometers from his place of work to protect his identity. “The Chinese
and Pakistani brokers make between 4 million and 10 million rupees ($25,000 and $65,000) from the groom, but only about 200,000 rupees ($1,500), is given to the family,” he said.
The official, with years of experience studying human trafficking in Pakistan, said many of the women who spoke to investigators told of forced fertility treatments,
physical and sexual abuse and, in some cases, forced prostitution. Although no evidence has emerged, at least one investigation report contains allegations of organs being harvested from some of the women sent to China.
In September, Pakistan’s investigation agency sent a report it labeled “fake Chinese marriages cases” to Prime
Minister Imran Khan. The report, a copy of which was attained by the AP, provided details of cases registered against 52 Chinese nationals and 20 of their Pakistani associates in two cities in eastern Punjab province — Faisalabad, Lahore — as well
as in the capital Islamabad. The Chinese suspects included the 31 later acquitted in court.
report said police discovered two illegal marriage bureaus in Lahore, including one operated from an Islamic center and madrassa — the first known report of poor Muslims also being targeted by brokers. The Muslim cleric involved fled police.
After the acquittals, there are other cases before the courts involving arrested Pakistani and
at least another 21 Chinese suspects, according to the report sent to the prime minister in September. But the Chinese defendants in the cases were all granted bail and left the country, say activists and a court official.
Activists and human rights workers say Pakistan has sought to keep the trafficking of brides quiet so as not to jeopardize Pakistan’s
increasingly close economic relationship with China.
China has been a steadfast ally
of Pakistan for decades, particularly in its testy relationship with India. China has provided Islamabad with military assistance, including pre-tested nuclear devices and nuclear-capable missiles.
Today, Pakistan is receiving massive aid under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global endeavor aimed at reconstituting the Silk Road and
linking China to all corners of Asia. Under the $75 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Beijing has promised Islamabad a sprawling package of infrastructure development, from road construction and power plants to agriculture.
The demand for foreign brides in China is rooted in that country’s population, where there are roughly 34 million more
men than women — a result of the one-child policy that ended in 2015 after 35 years, along with an overwhelming preference for boys that led to abortions of girl children and female infanticide.
A report released this month by Human Rights Watch, documenting trafficking in brides from Myanmar to China, said the practice is spreading. It said
Pakistan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea and Vietnam have “all have become source countries for a brutal business.”
“One of the things that is very striking about this issue is how fast the list is growing of countries that are known to be source countries in the bride trafficking business,” Heather Barr,
the HRW report’s author, told AP.
Omar Warriach, Amnesty International’s
campaigns director for South Asia, said Pakistan “must not let its close relationship with China become a reason to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses against its own citizens” — either in abuses of women sold as brides or separation
of Pakistani women from husbands from China’s Muslim Uighur population sent to “re-education camps” to turn them away from Islam.
“It is horrifying that women are being treated this way without any concern being shown by the authorities in either country. And it’s shocking that it’s happening on this scale,”
04 Dec 19/Wednesday