Pak demands J&K action while ignoring Uighurs | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:58 PM, August 07, 2020

Pak demands J&K action while ignoring Uighurs

Even as Pakistan this week drew international attention to the plight of Muslims in Indian Kashmir, Islamabad stayed conspicuously silent about another embattled Muslim community -- China's Uighur population.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has presented himself as a defender of Muslims worldwide and routinely speaks out on the disputed Kashmir region, even comparing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Adolf Hitler and accusing him of overseeing a genocide.

"We will never accept, and neither will the Kashmiris, the illegal Indian actions and oppression of the Kashmiri people," Khan said Wednesday as Pakistan marked the one-year anniversary of India stripping the Muslim-majority region of its semi-autonomous status.

But even amid mounting evidence of a harsh crackdown on the Uighur population in neighbouring China's Xinjiang region, Khan has refused to be drawn into the domestic affairs of Pakistan's long-time ally.

Rights groups estimate more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities have been rounded up into a network of internment camps, which China has branded "re-education centres".

Both Kashmiris and Uighurs have been subjected to curfews, profiling, and a massive presence of security forces along with moves to allow outsiders to settle in their homelands.

Pakistan and India have clashed over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947, with both countries claiming the territory that has sparked two full-blown wars between the foes.

China meanwhile has steadily poured cash into Pakistan, investing more than $50 billion as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that has upgraded infrastructure, power and transport links connecting Xinjiang to Pakistan's newly refurbished Gwadar port.

China has also offered steadfast diplomatic support to Pakistan during its frequent bouts of unrest with India.

When asked about the Uighurs, Khan has wafted between citing unfamiliarity with the issue and defending Pakistan's vital relationship China.

"China has helped us when we were at rock bottom. We are really grateful to the Chinese government, so we have decided that any issues we have had with China we will handle privately," Khan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.

Pakistan's silence on the Uighurs is not unique in the Islamic world.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, has also defended China, saying he respected Beijing's "anti-terrorism" efforts. Turkey has also toned down criticism on the issue.

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