Pakistani Christian brides for sale: China calls report 'untrue' as Islamabad halts probe

In what seems to be an effort to ensure that its trade ties with China remain "amicable" Pakistan has halted all investigation into the alleged trafficking of Pakistani Christian women, who were being sold to Chinese nationals as brides.

A report by The Associated Press claimed that 629 girls and women, mostly from poorer Christian families in Pakistan were being sold to Chinese men. There were also allegations of organ trade.

The reports of fake marriages in Pakistan were exposed after a series of raids that were carried out by the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan back in May. The FIA, which is a criminal investigation, counter-intelligence, and security agency under the control of the Interior Secretary of Pakistan; had carried out a series of raids in Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi. In the raids, over a dozen Chinese nationals also were arrested by the FIA.

Pakistani bride

The raids were carried out bases on complaints that young Pakistani girls and women, most of who were Christians and come from poorer backgrounds were being lured into carrying wealthier Chinese men. The raids were carried out on outfits operated by both Chinese and Pakistan nationals, who assisted in helping Chinese men find "desired" wives.

Even as the FIA investigation continued, several investigating officials reportedly were shunted out and the agency was constantly under pressure from the Pakistani government that was worried about its bilateral ties with China.

The biggest blow for the investigation came after a court in Faisalabad acquitted all 31 Chinese nationals who were arrested in connection to the trafficking case.

Encouraged by the outcome of the case, the Chinese embassy in a statement said: "The Chinese government will protect legitimate marriages and combat crimes. If any organization or individual commits a crime in Pakistan under the banner of transnational marriage, China supports the Pakistani side to crack it down according to Pakistani laws.

"It is clear that certain media has made groundless stories again without a full investigation and [irrespective] of the facts. Its intention is very suspicious. We will never allow a few criminals to undermine China-Pakistan friendship and hurt the friendly feelings between two peoples. We also hope that media reports should seek truth from facts, be objective and fair," The Dawn reported.

A statement by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi reflects the priorities of the government.

"We have to protect our girls and we also have to protect our bilateral relations...We have to handle both the issues and we are trying to resolve them in an amicable manner," the Qureshi reportedly had said.

This article was first published on December 6, 2019