No reports on the bride trafficking from Pakistan and China have emerged since the investigators halted the probe after coming under pressure from the Pakistani government, according to a US-based think tank.
In 2019, several media reports highlighted the rampant bride trafficking through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), resulting from fraudulent marriages between Pakistani women and girls and Chinese men. A report by Brookings Foreign Policy has again put the spotlight on the cases of bride trafficking and the living conditions of the victims who were lured with payments to families and promises of a good life in China. But once the brides reached China, they had to go through forced pregnancy, forced prostitution and extremely difficult living conditions.
After international media raised the issue in 2019, Pakistan’s federal investigation agency arrested and charged 52 traffickers, all of them Chinese. However, the issue was soon brushed under the carpet and more than half of the accused were acquitted by late 2019. The report says that “others were all given bail and flown out of Pakistan, investigators were pressured by Pakistani authorities to let the cases slide, and journalists were asked to curtail their reporting on the issue.”
The exceedingly close relationship between the two countries and the lopsided power dynamics, heavily inclined towards China, prompted the Pakistan government to push back on the investigation. In December 2019, Associated Press reported that the probe had come to a grinding halt as investigators came under pressure from government officials who feared hurting ties to Beijing, Islamabad’s all-weather ally.
China’s ambassador to Pakistan even went on local television to deny that any prostitution was occurring connected to the cases reported by AP.
“What is most notable in the matter of bride trafficking along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not that it was happening…but the attempt to brush it under the rug after shining a clear light on it, especially by Pakistan, a country whose citizens were the victims,” the author, Madiha Fazal, wrote.
The author noted that no cases of bride trafficking from Pakistan to China were reported after December 2019. That period coincided with the onset of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic which led to the closing of international borders.
This is not the first time that Pakistan has compromised on human rights violations to maintain strong ties with China. Islamabad’s deafening silence on the gross abuse of human rights of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region has been frequently highlighted by India on global forums.
The US state department, in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, has documented the Chinese government’s “policy or pattern” of widespread forced labour. The report suggested that China does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity.