NEW DELHI: New irritants have emerged in the Sino-Pak “all-weather ties” ahead of the second Belt and Road Initiative Summit, following reports of Pakistani women facing harassment from Chinese men visiting the country to work on the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor.
Chinese traffickers are running centres across key Pakistani cities to trap women from economically backward families under the pretext of marriages, media reports have said. These women are taken to China where they are pushed into prostitution or their organs are sold, according to the reports.
The number of Chinese nationals visiting Pakistan has substantially increased since the economic corridor project was put into place in 2013. The reports could be a headache for both sides ahead of the April 25 BRI summit, which is scheduled to be attended by top Pakistani leaders.
The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad reacted to the reports on Saturday, a day after a top Pakistani television station showed images of Chinese men with some local women at a so-called matchmaking centre in Lahore.
According to the channel, the Chinese men couldn’t produce local marriage certificates or documents to show that they converted to Islam, which they must do under local laws if they want to marry a Pakistani Muslim woman.
The women told the TV channel that their families would get about $300 (Rs 20,800) per month and a Chinese visa for male family members.
“We remind both Chinese and Pakistani citizens to remain vigilant and not to be cheated,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement. “We hope that the public does not believe in misleading information and works together to safeguard China-Pakistan friendship.”
China is cooperating with Pakistani law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal matchmaking centres, the embassy said. Both Chinese and Pakistani youths are victims of illegal agents, it added.
“Some private marriage bureaus were involved in these marriages,” Tariq Sardar, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s interior ministry, told reporters. Most of the complaints were from Lahore and Abbottabad, local media reported, citing Sardar.