As Chinese Communist Party celebrates 70th anniversary, pro-western propaganda organs including media and think tanks are alarmed at cliche “concentration” camps in Xinjiang. Even Prime Minister Imran Khan has been accused of dodging the question on Xinjiang and the alleged ill treatment of Uyghur community by the Chinese authorities. The latest was a sarcastic tweet by the US’s top diplomat and point person for South Asia, Alice Wells, taunting PM for not paying equal attention to the plight of the Uyghurs like Kahsmiris.
However, the narrative of Uyghurs’ “concentration camp” finds little traction in Pakistan, as suspicion surrounding this propaganda runs very deep in the country and around many Muslim countries. The geo-politics regarding the spectacular rise of China and the rattled US administration’s measures to contain it (i.e., trade war, causing difficulties for Beijing in sovereign places like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and even in Taiwan, leveraging India against Beijing, and latest anti-China Indo-Pacific policy) are by and large making the claim of Washington less credible in defending human rights of Uyghur community.
It is still fresh in memories of many watchers in Pakistan, when the US was fighting Soviet Union, religion was weaponized as strategy against the USSR: “Islam in danger in Afghanistan” mantra was tailored made in Washington at that time. Ironically, same narrative is being peddled today by the western propaganda outlets that Islam and Muslims are in danger in Xinjiang.
For countries, like Pakistan and others, Xinjiang has never been far away to send diplomats and other observers to see for themselves the fate of Muslims there. Large number of visitors have been encouraged by Beijing to visit the region and verify the ground reality. The last thing they need is CNN, BBC, and propaganda outlets to tell them as to how many mosques were destroyed and how many millions wiped out.
There is no love to be lost for muslims countries and their leaders when the western policy elite create boggy of “islamic terrorism”, xenophobic polices subjecting Muslim expatriates to discriminatory behaviour including in immigration and dress codes against their will. Again the pronouncements of US President Bush Junior that it was a “clash of civilisation” after 9/11 tragedy, made the friction between Muslims and western policy elite even wider—a damage not bridged even today.
Human rights and the rights of Muslims in particular have been the second order priority for western foreign policy elites. Massive abuses after regime changes in post-Sept 11 world, in countries like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, for example, blanket immunity for the aggressor forces and refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ over their offenses are only reinforce the impression in Muslim world that western elite do not care about human rights of fellow Muslims. More so the failure of the elite to carry any investigations ever make their concerns for Uyghurs community nothing more than crocodile tears.
It is also not lost on PM Imran Khan that till recently the same US based propaganda outlets have been singlehandedly exaggerating the so-called human rights abuses in erstwhile FATA but have been by and large silent on worst abuses in other parts of the world: India in IOK, up to 44 months of brutal repression of protests gassed, tortured, beaten and shot in some European capitals and above all the mistreatment of Palestinians by Israelis.
Little doubt, that Xinjiang has been a difficult place for Beijing mainly because of terrorism and insurgency spurred by outsiders. “Grey warfare” has been one of the tools used against Beijing in Xinjiang. It is well documented how Uyghur separatists were recruited in western capitals brought into Afghanistan and used in Xinjiang instability project.
The major objective is to subvert BRI and no better way but to fan insurgency in China’s difficult underbelly. Beijing’s neighbors like CA, Afghanistan and till recently Pakistan’s Waziristan region were turned as an arch of instability to undermine China’s increasing footprints extended in the BRI–CPEC as part of grand scheme to destabilise the host communities living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia and Xinjiang.
PM Imran Khan is old enough to remember how campaigns have been launched in the past against China (e.g. with Hong Kong as the latest one): they came and faded, taken off the shelf and put back on the shelf. So, one day it’s the Dalai Lama and Tibet, the next day, it’s the Falun Gong, the other day, the Muslim question and Xinjiang, the next day it’s Hong Kong.
Simple fact remains they want a piece of China but also leave no opportunity to cause difficulties for Beijing. And PM Khan is right not to take the bait when the US point person, Alex Wells, attempted to make him guilty on Uyghurs. The PM was also within his right to look beyond the reality distortion field created to benefit geo-political interests of the US.
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