On Tuesday 2 July a debate was held in the UK Parliament about the human rights of minorities in Pakistan, with a particular focus on the case of Asia Bibi.

The debate was secured by Crossbench Peer and Arise trustee Lord Alton. In his wide-ranging speech, he raised the plight of ethnic and religious minorities in Pakistan, which suffer under draconian blasphemy laws and profound persecution. 

Lord Alton took the opportunity to speak about the faith-targeted human trafficking of Christian girls from Pakistan to China as “brides". According to widely circulated and verified reports, over 1000 girls have suffered in this way since late 2018.   

Scandalously, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister dismissed these reports as “international propaganda”  when pressed on the issue by Euronews. In another contribution, this time reported by the Guardian, he played down reports of persecution in Pakistan, comparing it to “knife-crime in London”. Against a background of denial at the highest political levels, the importance of raising awareness around this tragic and abhorrent practice through debates like these is manifestly clear.   

  
Another of our trustees, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Hogan-Howe, pressed the issue, focusing his comments on current UK policy around international aid. As we have noted before, all UK aid is distributed according to “need and need alone”. This means that the ethnic or religious background of the person concerned is sidelined. But, as Lord Hogan-Howe explains, this approach is failing those who are persecuted for their religion or ethnicity. If faith or ethnicity is the reason people are vulnerable, we have to find a way of getting help to them, or we will not succeed in preventing exploitation which targets them. Without a more nuanced approach, it is difficult to imagine how the UK’s (generally excellent) anti-trafficking work in Pakistan will succeed for marginalised groups like these Christian girls. At the moment UK policy risks leaving them behind. Lord Hogan-Howe's short speech is worth watching in its entirety: