Monday May 20, 2019
The promises were many: a nice house for the parents, a well-paying job for the brothers in China and a comfortable life for their daughter in Pakistan. But none of the promises were true. In fact, what the family soon realised was that they had fallen victim to an organised ruse that could instead put their lives in danger.
Amina’s family was poor. Her 13-year-old sister had a heart disease, for which she urgently needed treatment. In order to gather the funds, her parents, brothers and sisters, moved to Lahore’s Mughalpura area. Here, Amina found work cleaning homes in the city.
One of the houses she worked at was owned by a woman named Sughra and her daughter, Huma. Both ran a small wedding décor business and were know locally to also arrange marriages. Amina says she was convinced by Sughra to consider marrying a Chinese man, who could offer her and her family a comfortable life. Her father was elated. He wasted no time in arranging for the marriage. One meeting later, a date was set and Amina, who was only 16-years-old, was to marry a man she did not even share a language with.
On the day of the wedding, at a local hall, Amina’s mother became suspicious. She began asking questions that neither the Chinese man nor his facilitators could answer. In a fit of rage, Amina’s father had her mother sent home during the nuptials. She was only allowed back when the deed was done.
Her 16-year-old was married to a man who had much more nefarious plans for his young wife.
The Chinese man, who used the alias Abu Malik, paid Rs. 35,00,000 to a local gang of three men, and the mother and daughter – Sughra and Huma – to wed Amina. Around Rs. 20,00,000 were paid in advance to lure the girl and arrange the ceremony, while the remaining, Malik promised would be paid once Amina reached China. That was the gang’s modus operandi. Several other such fake marriages had been arranged by the mother-daughter duo and the three men. Once the girls reached China, they were forced into prostitution.
Other such cases of fake marriages have been making the headlines, lately, in Pakistan. This past week, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has arrested over a dozen Pakistani and Chinese men, who had been involved in human trafficking Pakistani women on the pretext of marriage.
However, Chinese diplomats rubbish the claims. In a recent statement, China’s embassy said the “media reports have fabricated facts and spread rumors.” It further added that it has sent a taskforce to Pakistan to help the local law enforcement agencies investigate the incidents.
But Amina is certain she was duped. In fact, she learned of the ploy on her wedding night. One of the hotel owners told her that these men have been living in the hotel, where the wedding took place, and come back every week to get married to a new Pakistani girl.
The next morning the terrified girl called her brothers, who came as quickly as they could to get her. As Malik slept, Amina was able to sneak out and head to a police station in Liaquatabad.
When they narrated the story to the Station House Officer (SHO), the cop verbally abused the girl and her family and threatened to have them thrown in jail.
A month later, nothing has become of Amina’s case. After much persistence from the family, the police imprisoned the religious cleric, who read the nikah, for one night. Amina and her family fear for their lives as the men and women who sold their daughter roam freely, as does the man who bought her.