The dancing girls of Lahore: Girls smuggled to Dubai for ‘cultural exchanges’

Published: October 7, 2011
From red light district to Dubai’s clubs, girls are being misled into prostitution.

From red light district to Dubai’s clubs, girls are being misled into prostitution.


On board flight number ED 410, Nazar Muhammad Chohan, a lawyer based in Lahore, senses something dubious around him on this Dubai-bound flight.

More than half the passengers on this flight constitute young girls, dressed provocatively, he says. The one sitting next to him says that all of them have been booked by various hotels and clubs of Dubai as ‘dancing girls’. She stealthily reveals that Jajee, a resident of Lahore’s red light district, arranges these supposed ‘cultural exchange programmes’.

Chohan reaches his hotel in Deira Dubai and curiously questions his host regarding the ‘dancing girls from Lahore’. His host confirms the girl’s claims and directs Chohan to the nearby Pakeeza Pakistani Club in Hotel Ramee Guestline.

“There I saw almost 15 to 20 Pakistani girls who were called down for dancing,” recalls Chohan.

During his visit Chohan met 18-year-old Saima* from Lahore. She has been working as a dancer in a hotel in Dubai for the last two months without getting paid for the ‘job’. The contractor who got her this job had paid Rs150,000 to Saima’s father, Riaz*. In Dubai, she isn’t allowed to talk to anybody and is bound to follow all the instructions given out by her handler.

A contractor named Jajee operates from a hotel in Lahore’s red light district and arranges ‘jobs’ for dozens of girls like Saima — these girls are engaged in bonded labour and are not allowed to leave at their will, The Express Tribune has learnt.

After returning, Chohan meets Saima’s father Riaz. He reveals that they were tricked into believing that Saima would work as a ‘cultural exchange ambassador’ in Dubai and would earn a significant sum of money for the family.

During a visit to the hotel from where Jajee allegedly operates, a person named Bilal reveals, “Jajee is just one such contractor. Many such mafias are operating from this area and are smuggling girls to different countries for dancing and prostitution. These girls are sent abroad as members of cultural delegations visiting foreign countries to highlight the country’s positive image”.

When contacted, Jajee was not available to comment. Meanwhile, Chohan has filed an application with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) titled: “Slavery/bonded labour from girls by Lahore Mafia/Public Interest Complaint”.

“This is a clear violation of the basic fundamental rights laid down in the constitution,” the lawyer writes in his complaint.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Council Member Nadeem Anthony condemns this practice. “This is not only a case of bonded labour but of our country’s integrity. These girls are sent on the pretext of being artists but are forced into prostitution.”

Many girls from middle-class families were being trapped by agents who make promises of ‘big money’ and popularity in the cultural exchange/showbiz profession, says a visa consultant requesting anonymity.

“Majority of the parents are being told that their daughters are going abroad to work in honourable jobs,” he maintains.

Meanwhile, regarding Chohan’s official complaint, FIA inspector Sheraz Ahmed says the ‘unique’ complaint has been received and an investigation had been initiated.

(*Victims’ names have been changed)

Edited by Musab Memon

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (68)

  • Pakistan One
    Oct 7, 2011 - 9:47AM

    My head has lowered with shame before I could even complete reading two paragraphs of this news. Shame on all of us for being such heartless people.


  • Pakistan One
    Oct 7, 2011 - 9:48AM

    The complaint is not unique, it has been there for long time, its only because of a man with integrity who observed the situation and chose to speak about it.


  • Ali
    Oct 7, 2011 - 9:54AM

    A wired looking guy tells you that your daughter will be taken to Dubai to do a decent job. A girl who has most definitely not studied anything. The father needs to be punished as well. There is something known as experience. How can he not know that there is something fishy?


  • msk
    Oct 7, 2011 - 10:08AM

    I feel ashamed of being human. Government should strictly take notice of that type of things.


  • Z
    Oct 7, 2011 - 10:21AM

    @Ali – You raise a very good point. I too find it hard to believe that presumably educated “middle-class” families can be duped so easily. I think its highly likely that many parents are essentially selling their daughters off for money and then making up stories about being tricked in order to avoid prosecution.


  • ahsan221
    Oct 7, 2011 - 11:20AM

    i am in dubai and i think there is a ban on pakistani girls to come to dubai except the condition of coming with father brother or husband sponsored visa… maybe i am wrong but its the rule for pakistani females\girls… but i know we are also king in manipulation of rules..


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 11:37AM

    Cultural exchange my foot! How dumb you need to be realize that it wont end up in prostitution? Where are all the NGOs now? Oh, wait they are busy BASHING ‘mullahs’ who protests against dance and etc saying it is cover up to prostitution.


  • kamran
    Oct 7, 2011 - 11:52AM

    we also have another catagory of girls that works in our home we should give them equality as our own one if we ashamed like “pakistan one” dont be only ashamed go to red light area and try to educate them or do some thing to stop these things only ashamed is sin


  • TZ
    Oct 7, 2011 - 12:00PM

    we as nation have crossed every limit in all fields of life. No super man or bat man will come to save us or correct us. BUT we are waiting for a saviour. God Bless us


  • jagjit sidhoo
    Oct 7, 2011 - 12:09PM

    “He reveals that they were tricked into believing that Saima would work as a ‘cultural exchange ambassador’ in Dubai ” Give me a break,he just sold his daughter and needs to be put behind bars.


  • Hopeful
    Oct 7, 2011 - 12:10PM

    Well one must appreciate the kind efforts of Mr. Chohan .. In these days of misery no body even bothers to think upon doing so!!


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 12:16PM

    Ali is right. Everyone is aware of what kind of a world we live in and no one will just let their daughters go abroad without having properly learnt about the situation. Forget abroad, not even out of city. They’ll let their sons maybe, but not their daughters. Of course their willingness does not absolve the criminals nor put the girls out of mental torture they might be facing.
    I salute Mr Chohan for actually raising this issue which has, no doubt, been around since a long, long time now.


  • straight shooter
    Oct 7, 2011 - 12:28PM

    nice cultural exchanges hahaa wells


  • Lee
    Oct 7, 2011 - 12:50PM

    I am from China and now living in Karachi.I just feel sad to see such things happening in Pakistan.In China even it is considered very bad,not to mention that Pakistan is a religious country.I hope official people can take some real action to stop girls are arranged in this way.As well girls’ family need to be punished to avoid it happen again.


  • AA
    Oct 7, 2011 - 1:00PM

    Will any mullah protest against this? Will our dharna experts shout slogans for ‘daughters of nation’… O no, we do that only against the infidels


  • chaudhry
    Oct 7, 2011 - 1:01PM

    Do not get alarmed. Lahore has been “culturally” serving humanity over many centuries.


  • Mujib Abakhel
    Oct 7, 2011 - 1:04PM

    @Ali: 100% agreed. Before blaming the govt, these parents should be asked a few questions as well.


  • Munna
    Oct 7, 2011 - 1:30PM

    They all know what is going on and don’t speak. But, hunger makes them do everything.


  • Junaid
    Oct 7, 2011 - 1:48PM

    Remember that most of Pakistanis seek Islamic guidance from Arabs, these girls may have been on a training program on the culture being preached by Dubai??


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 1:48PM

    Remember, don’t believe everything you hear or read and only believe 50% of what you see in Pakistani channels or roads.

    What is the proof and authenticity of this news anyways? Any pictures, any footage, any documents????

    Wake up and smell the coffee.


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 1:50PM

    And all this news is based on his experience or what he heard during the flight?

    Come’on guys.Recommend

  • CK
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:07PM

    I salute the likes of Mr. Chohan for raising this issue. No doubt this is not really a new phenomenon, but it takes courage and sense of justice to bring this kind of “under the carpet” exploitation to the surface. May it be a step towards better human rights in Pakistan.


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:08PM

    So true. Cultural exchange is correct. It’s just the culture that’s wrong.
    Then again, who am I to criticize the culture of the ancient Arabs aka Pakistanis?


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:09PM

    @Usman Mahmood:

    What is the proof and authenticity of
    this news anyways? Any pictures, any
    footage, any documents????

    Yes! ET must produce atleast four reliable eye witnesses


  • imran ishtiaq
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:16PM

    so a brave man like Nazar could only write and unearth this he is fearless .


  • marria
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:28PM

    this illeagal prostitution should be stopped from a muslim country all people from pakistan should join hands to crub thiss illeagal crime


  • Faisal
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:28PM

    So what, Arabs are muslims, they can never do anything wrong with Pakistani girls, right?


  • Faizan
    Oct 7, 2011 - 2:44PM

    Where do the mullahs stand on this issue? Recommend

  • abz
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:05PM

    Travel on any ariblue flight from lahore to dubai or dubai to lahore…..and plane is filled with such girls….. and all of them are accompanied by a senior looking person who manages them …..



  • Salman
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:15PM

    Well if they were from famous Lahore’s red light area than I guess dancing is not a bad option than having sex. As long as, they remain away from prostitution than its fine keeping their background in mind.The article didn’t provided any proof of their involvement in prostitution.


  • Khalid
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:19PM

    It is very tragic that the gullible girls and their parents are duped into letting them go abroad. A naive and poor person abroad is completely helpless and at the mercy of the ‘handlers’. It is high time for Pakistan to regain its honour and stop this nefarious activity. Pakistan’s embassy in UAE must take take up the matter with the UAE government to stop this slavery and dishonour. Local action should be vigorously pursued against the people involved. I am glad there are people like Mr. Chohan who have not shut their eyes and become senseless to what is happening around us. Unfortunately most of us have become immune to the suffering of others and abnegated our responsibility. We can hope for a better tomorrow with respect for human rights when sensitive people decide it is time for action and stand up for others less privileged than themselves.


  • uH
    Oct 7, 2011 - 3:52PM


    Why the religous selectivity? Im not exactly sure which country you’re referring to as muslim, but that is hardly the issue! There is a principle involved here and it applies to all women (and men for that matter) regardless of race, religon, nationality, etc.

    While we are on this subject (and judging by your seeming obsession with everything islam), let me assure you that modern-day musalmaans are some of the biggest violators of womens’ rights. If you or anyone else disagrees (as I know will be the case), kindly cite emperical evidence(s) to your objestion(s).


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 4:43PM

    @Moderate: denying modern education to these girls and then forced them to live such a life where they can not earn an honest bread just because they are women. Recommend

  • let there be peace
    Oct 7, 2011 - 4:57PM

    Human trafficking is a HUGE problem in entire subcontinent. Unfortunately most of our societies prefer to sweep it under carpet.


  • OkLah
    Oct 7, 2011 - 4:57PM

    Well, it is quite common; even in Singapore; there are Hindi/Indian dance bars where girls are brought from India, Nepal, Bangladesh on ‘Artists’ Visa and they are paid around 1000 S$ per month with food & accommodation + return air-tickets; they are supposed to work for about 6 to 8 hours depending on bar’s timing mainly in Boat Quay Area and some along Serangoon Road near Mustafa Centre; they are not allowed to go out of their bar and their bar provided accommodation; once in a month they are allowed to go for shopping but in custody of someone from the bar’s management; they are allowed to call their homes once a month. I dont find it wrong as long as they are not engaged in prostitution; S$ 1000 is significant amount when compared to their local countried and the girls which are discussed in this news item are no different then the ones I am talking about.


  • Amjad
    Oct 7, 2011 - 5:54PM

    So you have exposed that some girls have been brought to Dubai for less than honest purposes. Do you not know that this is amongst the oldest professions in the world? Over a decade ago there was the scourge of Central Asian women working as prostitutes there. Moreover there are women from every nationality and background being forced into prostitution not only in the UAE but all over the world. Is it me or is the writer just naive of reality? Work to stop the abuse of women all over the world by exposing it and bringing it to the attention of the authorities but don’t pretend that criminal behaviour is not present in Pakistan just because it happens in other countries. We have the same societal problems that exist in all nations to some extent.


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 6:14PM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:
    I have all the requisite proofs, else i would not have gone to FIA…witnesses more than four…parents in fold…and the club in Daira Dubai wish you see…i have phone numbers every thing…


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 6:17PM

    @Usman Mahmood:
    Usman Sahib..i have all the proofs, FIA would not have registered my complaint, join hands with me for this crusade, and let me tell you in many comments it is clear that every one knew it was there no courage to take action…i request CJ Iftikhar Sahib for action….


  • Sunny's dad
    Oct 7, 2011 - 6:29PM

    I know Nazar Chohan for decades and there are few people in this world who are as brave as he is. We are proud of you for exposing the heinous trade of our girls to a foreign land. I wish we could have more people like you. Bravo Nazar.


  • Shoaib
    Oct 7, 2011 - 6:38PM

    This is one of the very few social contributions Mr. Nazar Chauhan has made for the community. Everybody would remmeber how he resigned from Civil Service and the reasons he gave for his resignation. How could one forget his contributions while he was with NAB, Privatization Commission, Had he been allowed to function as he was then we certainly would have found all these crooks called our national leaders at the helm of affairs. Instaed most of them would be behind bars. Chaudhries of Gujrat would bear me out. Coming back to the subject our society has rotten to this extent that our parents are selling off their teen aged daughters for petty sums. Alas this was prima facie responsibility of the Government to take care of the subjects in all spheres. Shame on the ruling elite. My head is bowed in shame. Hapless teenagers can’t even compalin.


  • Balma
    Oct 7, 2011 - 6:45PM

    i see nothing wrong in dancing and i don’t have a problem with tavaaif (member of a taaifaa).Recommend

  • ayesha
    Oct 7, 2011 - 7:07PM

    i still cant digest this article….where is the law? what governmt is doing? is this the reality of our muslim country?


  • Amer
    Oct 7, 2011 - 7:29PM

    The hotline to combat Human Trafficing in the UAE is 8007283.
    It’s available in six languages – Arabic, English, Urdu, Russian, Filipino and Bengali and operational round-the-clock seven days a week.
    I will file a complaint with the Dubai Police Center for Human Trafficing and submit this article as the main source of concern. I urge others to do the same so that these practices can be stopped. It’s everyone’s business to stop crime in society not just the government’s or the police.


  • Mujeeb
    Oct 7, 2011 - 7:30PM

    I really appreciate the courage shown by Mr. Chohan to highlight this important issue. I agree with many of the posts that the father is to be blamed as well. I am sure he knew in his heart that her daughter will be forced to prostitution. But perhaps here comes the role of injustices of the society leading to extreme poverty and forcing “sale” of many such girls by the family!
    Though we all are aware of the fact that prostitution is a centuries old trade but being muslims we must condemn such a shameful act. I urge the community to join hands with lion-hearted Chohan to curb this menace from being exported to another country and at the same time to rout it from our own country.


  • Mj
    Oct 7, 2011 - 7:45PM

    I have strong reservations against human trafficking, specially the kind done under deception, harassment, or force. If the girls are going there at their at own free will, fully understanding the risks involved, then I do not think it should be a problem. However, those girls who are duped and deceived should get our support and help in rehabilitation.


  • humz
    Oct 7, 2011 - 8:04PM

    this is such a criminal act..Y gov.dun take any action against women smuggling? parents are selling their daughterz just for the sake ov some rupees? poverty and injustice can lead someone to such extent?…But y our gov z sleeping?


  • Oct 7, 2011 - 8:45PM

    Our politicians, journalist and specially TV talk-show’s hosts are talking about non-serious issues and no one is considering real problems of our society. Mr. Nazar point out very serious issue and such issues set impressions of countries on the world. so we need to fight the case for all sisters of nations who are humiliated by our own people in our own country then we will be able to fight for Dr. Aifia Sadiqqi. Those people who involve in this crime must be punished seriously so that no one could sale country’ respect again. We all have to play our role to highlight this issue to Government and to CJ Iftikhar Choudhary to take action.lets raise the question “as Mr. Nazar have proofs so why FIA can not act against those people who are involve in such a crime?”


  • ajnabi
    Oct 7, 2011 - 8:49PM

    what about all men sent to the gulf and saudi to be slaves? why the sudden gender sensitivity?


  • humaira
    Oct 7, 2011 - 10:05PM

    there z no ”Muhammad Bin Qasim” in dis nation? Y gov,our leaderz and higher authorities r still sleeping? we all should have to raise our voice against this unhuman act..we should give respect to our women if we want to make a healthy society,a healthy nation..


  • david
    Oct 7, 2011 - 10:08PM

    shame on all the sold out NGOs…..yes they are just there to please the masters so that the dollars keep flowing….
    why aren’t our human rights characters speaking a word about it…Oh!…. must be in India giving pliant press releases or talking of minority rights, do that too by all means, but have a heart talk about these issues too.


  • areeba
    Oct 7, 2011 - 10:34PM

    the article sure brings into light a major issue and calls for action but lets hope that action is actually taken..because “drive” is what most of us lack and a good initiative seems to be a beacon of hope


  • Seemi
    Oct 7, 2011 - 11:16PM

    An eye opener for so-called proud PAKISTANI’s!!


  • Aftb Kenneth Wilson
    Oct 8, 2011 - 12:03AM

    It is true and these young women are seen doing odd jobs in all hotels which also provides openly hard drinks and musical programs. One wonders how they easily get visas and no one bothers to check them here in our own country. On the other hand it is all done in a legal way. This is a very big industry and means of foreign exchange. The province of Punjab is famous for this “Cultural Exchange”. I personally saw all this way back in 1997 during my brief stay in UAE. All this is done on highest level. Money is what matters most to some.


  • ghania nazar chohan
    Oct 8, 2011 - 12:16AM

    I think we should be ashamed by all this,because this has degraded the social and moral values of women in Pakistan. Moreover,this is like another feather in the hat,which aids in showing the world that Pakistani women have no rights and respect in our society.This issue raises various questions in our minds…is our Government unaware of all this?….Pakistani women have no rights and safety?..Does the word “Justice” imply anywhere in our society?….Only a strict and serious action would answer all such questions.


  • Ilyas Gujjar
    Oct 8, 2011 - 1:04PM

    demise the fact .it iz to be cleared dat behind all dix well known persons getting profit from dat kind ov busness…… we want law enforcement agencies or chief justice to mak a law to ban such activities wid in Pakistan.


  • Ahsan Wali
    Oct 8, 2011 - 1:28PM

    I really appreciate the courage shown by Mr. Chohan, sir whatever we do for this good work we are with you and its our religious duty too(HAZRAT MUHAMMAD SAWW k irshad ka mafhoom hai agar galat kam ho raha hai tu ucy hath se roko agar hath se nai rok sakty tu dil main he bura jano or ye iman ki kamzoor tareen halat hai ) well done sir i think you should file a case in supreme court against this human trafficking.i also add here that parents are equally responsible for this they don’t have time for their children they don’t know what they are doing so my appeal to all parents that they should look after their kids.
    regards ahsan wali


  • Ghussan Ayub Hashmi
    Oct 8, 2011 - 1:52PM

    quite shameful for all of us…
    where is the Gov. and all other authorities ?
    some strict actions must be taken by the supreme court to finish all such kind of businesses.Recommend

  • Musa tilu
    Oct 8, 2011 - 3:17PM

    I feel ashamed of being human. Government should strictly take notice of that type of things.


  • Oct 8, 2011 - 5:25PM

    i am very grateful to all for supporting/appreciating me for this noble cause, its a huge mafia, threatening me of dire condequences…i fear none except Allah Almighty, it is a test for Mullahs, Government and Ngos….no need to blame CJ for excessive Suo motos, he has no choice as when every one is either a beneficiary or a silent spectator…i once again thank you all especially the tribune team for carrying it out…
    Long Live Pakista!


  • Oct 8, 2011 - 8:47PM

    yes..faisal, ‘Custodians of Muslims Kaaba’….


  • True Believer
    Oct 8, 2011 - 10:01PM

    I see ‘RAW’ hands and other body parts all over this murky business !


  • Laura
    Oct 9, 2011 - 6:34AM

    As a Chinese girl, I feel sorry to hear about the so-called “cultural exchanges”. I support and admire Chohan, my friend, to raise this issue onto surface, at least not everyone has this courage to speak out those under carpet.
    We do hope Pakistan government would take practical actions to avoid it soon, anyway the main reason is due to hunger, sometimes they have no choice in order to make a living.
    Besides her parents should be responsible too, they must know how “decent” this job is, with less effort but significant sum of salary as return. If you are unable even to feed her, dont give birth to her.
    At last I want to complain for Pakistan girls, you should cultivate your own idea and try to be yourself always. If you insist on refusing this job, how can your parents force you to do so? You are their lovely daughter, not slave.
    May God Bless All of You!


  • Laura
    Oct 9, 2011 - 9:31AM

    As a Chinese girl, I feel sorry to hear about the so-called “cultural exchanges”. I support and admire Chohan, my friend, to raise this issue onto surface, at least not everyone has this courage to speak out those under carpet.
    We do hope Pakistan government would take practical actions to avoid it, anyway the main reason is due to hunger, sometimes they have no choice in order to make a living.
    Besides her parents should be responsible too, they must know how “decent” this job is, with less effort but significant sum of salary as return. If you are unable even to feed her, dont give birth to her.
    At last I want to complain for Pakistan girls, you should cultivate your own idea and try to be yourself always. If you insist on refusing this job, how can your parents force you to do so? You are their lovely daughter, not slave.
    May God Bless All of You!


  • Oct 10, 2011 - 9:37AM

    Prostitution is condemned by all of us rightly. Bring the focus of people, towards the issue is also rightly highlighted by Mr. Nazar. The authorities alongwith community should take action on it in two directions parallel. One short-term and second long-term. For short term resolution we should nab the culprits and for long-term solution the character of community is most essential. We should act upon the Islamic teachings to minimize the conditions which allure a person in such a state of mind to perform business of prostitution. Islam gives us way of living, helping each other in the shape of Zakat / Khairat etc. Each of us is responsible, to the extent of having, to take care of people living their lives. To develop a model society, all of us should act as a model character. By implementing all the norms of Islamic state, we can pull out such evils. Roll of each person will matter to set the norms of Islamic state.


  • Atif Iqbal
    Oct 10, 2011 - 11:22AM

    This has been happening since long.. If one reads the book “The Dancing Girls Of Lahore” by Lousie Brown, one will find out that many of the girls are actually trained for that matter, and belongs to the red-light area of Lahore.

    Due to the stigma of being born to woman, who indulge in such business, they are left with no choice but to choose the same profession for themselves.

    The socety needs a major over-haul.


  • Oct 15, 2011 - 2:53PM

    We need to check where we are going in the name of culture, supplying dancing girls never been our culture, our films, dramas & musical video which I used to take pride getting vulgar and vulgar by every day.


  • kamran
    Nov 5, 2011 - 10:19PM

    We need to stop this types Incident.


  • jzahmed
    Nov 21, 2011 - 3:26PM

    Allah help us please we are not able to do anything in such society only u can bring us out from that only you
    Allah 4gv us 4gv us 4gv us and save every1 from such kind of incidents


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