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Pakistan Caught within the Chinese Checker


Xinjiang, where about 10 million Uighurs and a few other Muslim minorities live, is an autonomous region in China’s northwest that borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia. It has been under Chinese control since 1949, when the communist People’s Republic of China was established. Today, China’s brutal crackdown on the community has made headlines around the world as up to three million Uighurs are believed to be held in so-called “re-education camps” where they are made to renounce Islam.

The repression of Uighurs is one of the most harrowing and yet one of the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world today. China depicts the Uighur people as a separatist and terrorist threat, and describes Islam as a mental illness fueling that threat. There have been multiple reports of mistreatment and torture at the internment camps facilities designed to erode ethnic identity. These places are reportedly sites of death, of torture, of Muslim detainees being forced to memorize CCP propaganda, renounce Islam, and consume pork and alcohol.

China’s version of the “war on terror” depends less on military units and more on annihilation of the domestic minority populations who appear to threaten the Chinese Communist party’s authoritarian rule.

Owing to their conditions in China, the Uighurs have been migrating to Pakistan since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some to work as traders and others escaping communist persecution. In Pakistan, there are around 2,000 Uighurs and for decades they have kept a low profile in the country – so much so that very few people are even aware.

Ironically, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview to Al Jazeera said he doesn’t know much about the situation of persecuted Uighur Muslims in China. His response to the whole situation was “we have been facing so many of our internal problems right now that I don’t know much about the problem”. Is it really possible for a head of a state to be sitting ignorant on an issue so vital? It doesn’t matter if the Uighur population is scanty in Pakistan; it is unacceptable for the prime minister of a nation to be keeping mum on issues concerning the very people who seek shelter in your country.

Despite Pakistan frequently highlighting the plight of Muslim minorities across the globe, especially on the supposed oppression of Kashmiri Muslims, when it comes to Uighurs, Islamabad does not wish to anger its powerful neighbor. Showing such “double standards” and turning a blind eye towards the pressing issue of the persecution of Uighur Muslims in China, it is a matter of shame that Islamabad was silent and supporting Beijing’s policy on the minority community. It is obvious that Pakistan is covering up for China by faking ignorance on the issue simply because the aid coming from China is helping the cash strapped Pakistan to save its neck from debt.

But what is China doing to reciprocate the favor to its powerless and burdened neighbor? In an official statement regarding the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping scheduled later this month, China has said that the Kashmir issue might not be a major topic of discussion. Notwithstanding the high voltage campaign by its close ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, China’s stand on the resolution of the Kashmir issue remains that it is a problem between India and Pakistan. Although it is a well known fact that China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan, had tried to take the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council last month. But a closed-door meeting of the UNSC ended without any outcome or statement. Why hasn’t China decided to speak with India on the matters of Kashmir, if not willingly, at least to show support to its younger brother. What game is china playing with its very close ally?

China has once again successfully fooled its friend Pakistan into believing that they will be supportive while carefully choosing to be evasive. How much can this friendship survive the test of times with this one-sided sentiment of brotherly love, only time will tell? One thing is but clear  that the Pakistan will continue making a mockery of itself by asking for help in the form of international intervention while its very dear friend China, like the rest of the global fraternity, has decided to isolate them, giving all indications that it is a lost battle.

19 Sep 19/Thursday                                  Written by: Saima Ebrahim


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