Salman Masood and Amy Qin
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Rabia Kanwal’s parents were sure her marriage to a wealthy Chinese Muslim she had just met would give her a comfortable future, far from the hardships of their lives in Pakistan. But she had a premonition.
“I was not excited,” said Ms. Kanwal, 22, who lives in a poor neighborhood in the city of Gujranwala, in the eastern province of Punjab. “I felt something bad was going to happen.”
Arranged marriages are common in Pakistan, but this one was unusual. The groom, who said he was a rich poultry farmer, met Ms. Kanwal’s family during a months-long stay on a tourist visa. He had to use a Chinese-Urdu translation app to communicate with them, but overall, he made a favorable impression.
Ms. Kanwal went through with the wedding. But upon moving to China with her new husband in February, she said, she was disappointed by what she found: He was a poor farmer, not a wealthy one. Far worse, he was not a Muslim. Within days, with the help of the Pakistani Embassy, she was back home and pursuing a divorce.
Hers was a relatively happy ending, though. In recent weeks, Pakistan has been rocked by charges that at least 150 women were brought to China as brides under false pretenses — not only lied to, but in some cases forced into prostitution. Others said they were made to work in bars and clubs, an unacceptable practice in Pakistan’s conservative Muslim culture.