FILE - Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Lahore, March 20, 2017.
FILE - Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Lahore, March 20, 2017.

ISLAMABAD - Authorities in Pakistan have arrested a group of 10 Chinese nationals for allegedly arranging fake marriages with young Pakistani girls before forcing them into prostitution in China.

A senior official at the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Lahore, capital of Punjab province, told reporters Monday its anti-human trafficking cell has also rounded up four Pakistani partners in the prostitution ring.

Jameel Ahmed Khan said the detained foreigners, with the help of local facilitators, were primarily trapping women from poverty-stricken families of the minority Christian community in phony marriages between Chinese men and Pakistani women. The FIA officer said a female Chinese national and a fake Pakistani priest were also among the detainees. 

Forced into prostitution

Khan noted that some members of the ring told interrogators they have sent dozens of Pakistani girls to China where they are forced into prostitution.

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad has said it is cooperating with Pakistani authorities to curb the illegal activity. Chinese media reported authorities have also recently arrested some members of the network in China.  Zhao Lijian, the deputy chief of the diplomatic mission, said, "And not only Chinese, there are also Pakistanis involved in this business."

Lijian told local media the Chinese government has sent a task force and it is currently in Pakistan working with the Ministry of Interior as well as the FIA to try to resolve this issue.

Human Rights Watch 

Last week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Pakistan and China to take seriously increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China and take effective measures to end bride trafficking.

The number of Chinese visiting Pakistan has dramat
FILE - Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks at the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan, Nov. 13, 2016

The number of Chinese visiting Pakistan has dramatically increased since the launch of the bilateral multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) five years ago. The flagship pilot project of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has brought $19 billion in much-needed Chinese investment to Pakistan.

Matchmaking center

A mainstream Pakistani television station last month aired images of an illegal matchmaking center in Lahore housing several Chinese men and six Pakistani women, including two teenage girls, awaiting transit to China as brides.

The victims told the ARY News channel their families received about $3,000 and were promised about $280 a month in future payments as well as a Chinese visa for a male family member.