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Over 600 Pakistani women sold as brides to China

The list, obtained by The Associated Press, was compiled by Pakistani investigators determined to break up trafficking networks exploiting the country’s poor and vulnerable. China’s Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of the list. The report said police discovered two illegal marriage bureaus in Lahore.

ET Bureau|
Dec 06, 2019, 10.49 AM IST
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Agencies
Pakistan China
In September, Pakistan’s investigation agency sent a report it labeled “fake Chinese marriages cases” to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
As many as 629 girls and women from across Pakistan were sold as brides to Chinese men and taken to China, according to a report by news agency Associated Press.

The list, obtained by The Associated Press, was compiled by Pakistani investigators determined to break up trafficking networks exploiting the country’s poor and vulnerable.

“The list gives the most concrete figure yet for the number of women caught up in the trafficking schemes since 2018. But since the time it was put together in June, investigators’ aggressive drive against the networks has largely ground to a halt. Officials with knowledge of the investigations say that is because of pressure from government officials fearful of hurting Pakistan’s lucrative ties to Beijing,” according to the AP report.

“In October, a court in Faisalabad acquitted 31 Chinese nationals charged in connection with trafficking. Several of the women who had initially been interviewed by police refused to testify because they were either threatened or bribed into silence, according to a court official and a police investigator familiar with the case. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution for speaking out.”

At the same time, the government has sought to curtail investigations, putting “immense pressure” on officials from the Federal Investigation Agency pursuing trafficking networks, Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped parents rescue several young girls from China and prevented others from being sent there told AP.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of the list. “The two governments of China and Pakistan support the formation of happy families between their people on a voluntary basis in keeping with laws and regulations, while at the same time having zero tolerance for and resolutely fighting against any person engaging in illegal cross-border marriage behavior,” the ministry said in a statement faxed Monday to AP’s Beijing bureau.

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.

The 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.

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