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“They (Chinese) never tell us about our families, who have been separated and trapped in China, rues one of the Pakistani husband having an Uyghur wife. Chinese just say your families will come back to you when they finish their training in so called Re-Education Camps. However, that day has never come for these grieving families.

In an ongoing tradition, every autumn on the mountainous Karakoram Highway, part of the ancient Silk Road, groups of Pakistani merchants living in China’s far west would wave goodbye to their Chinese wives, most of them Uyghur Muslims,  and cross over to Pakistan to spend winter in their home country. And when snow piled high, the men would stay in touch with their families by phone, longing for the spring thaw that would allow them to be reunited in Xinjiang. But last year came as a bitter surprise when many of their calls suddenly went unanswered. Their families had simply disappeared, who were later traced back to shadowy “re-education camps” with their passport and means of communication confiscated. Chinese feared of Islamic militancy crossing the border from Pakistan.

Pakistanis are indeed distressed. Did they commit a mistake by marrying a Chinese Uyghur Muslim girl? It may not be so but for Beijing, who claims to have an ever-increasing serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists in Xinjiang, perhaps you have committed a big crime. China is very clear in his mind that they cannot allow Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to become a threat to Beijing and they do not welcome Pakistani influence in this regard.

There are several people like Pakistani businessman Mirza Imran Baig and Mian Shahid Ilyas who are running from pillar to post, to get their families out of China. “A lot of people get married like us. It’s no problem. But in 2017 they started to seal everything off in Xinjiang,” says Ilyas, whose Chinese Uyghur wife, a citizen of China, had been detained since April 2017.

Disappointed with the last govt, the affected families have now pinned their hopes on cricketing legend and firebrand Prime Minister, of the country, Imran Khan to help them by asking China to release the trapped families. There are more than 40 confirmed cases but it is believed that the actual number may be as high as 300 whose wives and children, most of them Uyghurs, had been stuck in Xinjiang for more than a year, either in Re-Educational Camps or confined to homes.

Last month a group of Pakistani businessmen had visited Beijing to pursue their demands to release their families however there has been no response from China. The protests are increasing and Beijing is facing an outcry from activists, some governments and U.N. human rights experts over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority, and other Muslim groups, in the western region. They call it China’s big mistake and are hopeful that Chinese authorities will make the amends at the earliest lest it affects the otherwise good relations between the two nations and their dream project CPEC.

01 Nov 2018/Thrusday.                                                  Written by Azadazraq


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