RAWALPINDI: The Federal Investigation Agency’s Anti-Human Trafficking Cell arrested 20 more people for ‘bride trafficking’ during raids in Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Wednesday. The latest arrests included 14 Chinese nationals from whom weapons were also seized, three local facilitators and three Pakistani women.

According to FIA sources, this is the first time that weapons were also recovered from the Chinese nationals in connection with the ‘bride-trafficking’ case. “All arrested have been shifted to the FIA headquarters in Islamabad,” said an FIA official.

So far 39 arrests have been made during raids all over Punjab by the FIA in connection with the case — four in Faisalabad (May 3), eight in Lahore (May 6), seven in Rawalpindi (May 7) and 20 in Pindi/Islamabad (Wednesday).

Weapons seized from Chinese nationals

Moreover, the FIA also submitted an investigation report to the federal interior ministry, detailing the modus operandi of the traffickers.

In its investigation report to federal Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah, the FIA said that during preliminary investigation it emerged that Chinese nationals travel to Pakistan on “business visa-on-arrival” facility. Later, they contact locals to lure young Pakistani girls into fake marriages.

“There is an illegal racket of some individuals involved in fake marriages which is being operated since last November,” said a senior FIA official.

The FIA’s latest investigation reveals that three marriages between Chinese nationals and Pakistani girls took place in the Mandi Bahauddin area, but none of the girls approached the police to file a complaint or lodge an FIR.

When Dawn spoke to Regional Police Officer Rawalpindi Ahmad Ishaq Jehangir about these alliances, he said that he had been informed about one case which involved an underage girl, but the police can’t do anything when the marriage takes place with the consent of the couple.

The arrests come a week after Human Rights Watch said Pakistan should be alarmed by recent reports of trafficking of women and girls to China.

It said the allegations were disturbingly similar to the pattern of trafficking of “brides” to China from at least five other Asian countries.

Jameel Ahmad, a senior FIA official, told Reuters that the agency had busted the gang after it received information about the increasing smuggling of Pakistani woman to China where they are thrown into prostitution.

He said several gangs were believed to be operating, mainly targeting members of the Christian community.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2019