Jihad in Sinkiang

By K.N. Pandita

In a recent seminar in Beijing, Masood Khan, Pakistani Ambassador in China said, “Our two nations will continue to fight the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. Our solidarity in this regard is rock solid….”  He does not see the two-decade-old uprising of 18 million Sunni-Hanafi Muslim Uighurs of that region as a nationalist uprising seeking religious, political, social and economic freedom for the oil and gas rich province of Sinkiang, which comprises 16 % of China’s total geographical area. Such a statement is not unexpected of a running dog of Chinese hegemony. 

After annexing the historical Eastern Turkistan in 1949, China pursued two important aspects of her policy for this ethnic, religious and social group different from the vast majority in China mainland. One was to gradually change the demographic complexion by resettling Han Chinese in the province where the Uighurs hitherto enjoyed absolute majority. Today the two ethnic groups are evenly balanced but with Han preponderance. The second was to obliterate Muslim identity of the Uighurs and invade their Islamic culture to be replaced by combined communist and Chinese ethos. Chinese was made the medium of instruction, construction of new mosques was frozen, books on history, religion and culture of Islam were burnt in thousands, and the more recent example is of Kashghar Publication House where over one thousand books on these subjects were destroyed. Recurrent riots during past two decades were essentially reaction of Uighurs to the attempts of demolishing their identity, culture, language, economy and demographic complexion. Their economy stands stifled and their trade avenues blocked. Today there is Chinese security in almost every house in Kashghar. All public places, railway stations, airports, market place, squares, parks, play grounds in most of the Xinjinag province witness massive presence of Chinese Han police and security personnel turning entire Sinkiang into a battleground of sorts.

All this has not been of any concern to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a state created for the protection of the interests of the Muslims. The same Pakistan has now officially labeled 18 million Muslim Uighurs, struggling for protection of their rights as an autonomous ethnic group, as terrorists against whom she will gird up loins and fight against side by side with their oppressors for the sake of her masters in Beijing.

Will this double speak go down the throat of the Chinese? Khan’s comments came against the backdrop of allegations by the municipal government in Kashghar in Xinjiang that leaders of ETIM who carried out the attacks in the city close to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) last month were trained in terror camps in Pakistan. Chinese officials claimed that seven of the Uighur terrorists captured alive in Kashghar incident confessed they were trained in terrorist training camps in Pakistan. In a White Paper issued some times back by Beijing on situation in Xinjiang, two full paragraphs pertained to the role of Pakistani fundamentalist-terrorist organizations in instigating Uighur separatism and fuelling the uprising there.  It was as early as 2002 that Beijing began to suspect Pakistani terrorist hand in Uighur turmoil. In the wake of exacerbated riots in many towns of Sinkiang like Kashghar, Yarkand, Aksu, Khotan and Karamy more than 400 persons were done to death, with 100 in Kashghar alone, and with increasing evidence coming to the hands of authorities in Beijing, President Jintao called Pak President Zardari and demanded an explanation. Though inside story of this telephonic talk is not known but it is anybody’s surmise that they talked seriously about Pakistani organizations exporting terror to Sinking. Unnerved by the call from Beijing, Zardari immediately dispatched the ISI Chief to China where he, in his usual way, tried to mollify the Chinese by trading the plethora of untruths and falsehoods.

Pakistan’s outright commitment to help China suppress and destroy the East Turkistan Islamic Movement is the unassailable proof that the ruling oligarchs in Pakistan are not bothered about faith and the Islamic ummah whose custodian they claim to be, but only to serve their self-interests of remaining glued to the seats of power. What sort of Islamic brotherhood is it? Why does not the OIC raise its voice on the plight of the Uighurs and whey does it not pass resolution against China as it does each time when it meets, against India on Kashmir. Let Kashmiris compare their freedom of faith, speech, movement and press and platform with what is given to the 18 million Uighur Sunni Muslims of Sinkiang. The comparison will help them to  judges better of what their mentors across the border want them to do.

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