Why Pakistan is silent over Chinese persecution in East Turkestan

by Editorial

On 8 October 2020, a webinar on ‘Persecution of Islam in East Turkestan’ was organised by the South Asian Democratic Forum (SADF) and moderated by Paula Casaca, Executive Director, SADF. Participants in the webinar discussed about the gross human rights violations carried out by China in East Turkestan and also called out the hypocritical silence of states like Pakistan, that proclaim itself as the champion of Islam and Muslims, on the Uighur issue. 

Rushan Abbas, Executive Director, Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU), said that freedom of religion and Islamic practices was suppressed by China in East Turkestan. China had destroyed one third of the region’s mosque of the East Turkestan region. For how long could Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan receive Chinese blood money as investment, she asked. She called on all countries not to be an accomplice in China’s genocide.

 Senge Sering, president of the Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies, said that Chinese and Pakistanis attacked the families, particularly women and children of the dissenters in Gilgit Baltistan. China’s policy of economic exploitation and cultural genocide in Tibet and Xinxiang was now spreading like coronavirus into the Pashtun areas, Gilgit Baltistan and Baluchistan in Pakistan. Wherever policies like China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) were on place, China was accentuating border conflict and tensions and pursing a policy of divide and rule. China was forcing Pakistan to deny autonomy to Gilgit Baltistan and enabling it to annex it in contravention of international laws. Sering said that Pakistan denied even the basic rights to the people of Gilgit Baltistan and this was a replica of Chinese policies pursued in Xinxiang and Tibet. 

Fazal-ur-Rehman Afridi, PTM Representative to European Union and United Nations, said that just like Sering, his family was also threatened in Pakistan for voicing the concerns of Pashtuns. The speaker said that Pakistan was persecuting Pashtuns in a similar way as Uighurs were being persecuted in Xinxiang. Pakistan, which calls itself a champion of Islam, was criminally silent on the plight of Muslims in East Turkestan Pakistan was not a champion of Islam and only invoking Islam to further its narrow strategic agenda. In the name of CPEC, the Pashtun resources were being plundered by both Pakistan and China.

 Seigfried O Wolf, Director (Research), South Asia Democratic Forum, said that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s calls to condemn Islamophobia were hypocritical considering its conspicuous silence on the sordid plight of Uighurs in East Turkestan. Silence on the Uighur issue showed that Pakistan had no genuine concern on the right of self-determination. Islamabad’s hypocritical stance on Uighur issue signified how the Pakistani government was having close ties with religious hardliners such as Jammat ul Dawa, which too had maintained a silence on the persecution and genocide of Muslims in East Turkestan.

 Member of European Parliament (MEP) Gianna Gancia sent in her statement on the issue that the EU promotes human rights through its participation in multilateral forums such as the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, the UN Human Rights Council, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. The Union also actively promotes international justice, for example through the International Criminal Court. The international community cannot remain a silent spectator.

 Eventually it was concluded that Pakistan looked very selectively at human rights issues for its own interests and this explained its silence on the issue of persecution of Uighur in East Turkestan.

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