Recent years have seen a remarkable era of Pakistan-China friendship. Apparently, everyone in Pakistan is singing songs that China is their real friend and it will be purely due to China that their country will rise from the ashes like a miracle.
Over the last so many decades, Pakistani rulers have been emphasising on their Islamic orientation, criticising the instances wherever they felt that Muslims are facing discriminations. For instance, Pakistan's political establishment went berserk over atrocities committed against Palestinian, Rohingya Muslims, during Balkan Conflict at Kosovo, the Chechnya debacle among. Criticism flowed fast and steady.
But a serious question arises as to how much is the People's Republic of China, the mentor and 'best friend' of Pakistan, concerned and sensitive about the second largest and the fastest growing religion in the world?
To find the answer, you must look towards the north-west edge of Pakistan and Indian province of Kashmir. In the map, you will find Xinxiang province of the People’s Republic of China where an ethnic Islamic minority called Uighurs have been fighting for over six decades for their existence. They have been receiving a second-class treatment from rulers of the Peoples Republic of China; their religious and cultural autonomy is under serious threat.
Uighurs are a minority of Turkish-speaking people of about 10 million population. While Pakistan considers itself as the true defender of Islam, China has banned Islamic activities in its Xinxiang province for Uighur Muslims. Religious education is totally banned for Uighurs and is punishable by law. The religious prohibition by China includes control over religious activities, practitioners, schools, cultural institutions, publication of Islamic literature and even personal appearance and behaviour of Uighur Muslims. They cannot display any symbol of Islam, for example, beard or Islamic dresses.
Not only this, all Imams of the mosques are supposed to vet themselves on a regular basis, attend self-criticism sessions where they are to criticise their own religion. They are forbidden to practice anything which can be termed as a symbol of slightest separatism as per the policy of China, and it is punishable by death. Last year the Imams were called for a gathering and made to dance on the tunes of China. The video is still available on social media.
There are cases where people have been tortured and punished just because they were in possession of a version of Holy Koran. There have been times where the peaceful activists have been arrested, tortured and executed even without any evidence. There are so many stories of atrocities of Uighurs in the area, however, due to media censorship in the country, they don’t come out.
The mass genocide of Uighurs started in 1949 with the Chinese occupation of territory by General Wang Zhen. Things have not changed much since then. Only the Generals changed over the years, the genocide of innocent population continues.
The Chinese influence in the area has risen very sharply. The Uighurs which used to dominate the region with over 90% population share in 1955 has now dropped to 43% because of a state-sponsored mass settlement of residents from the eastern part of China. Many of these settlers include retired soldiers from the Chinese military and seasonal workers employed in various industries in the region. China has already succeeded in changing the demographic pattern of the area.
India's neighbour who is so concerned about Islam has always turned a blind eye to this matter. No one in Pakistan government ever speaks about the religious freedom of Uighurs in China. Their support for Islam falls through when it comes to Uighurs of China. If we compare the state of religious freedom across the world, China's track record would be the worst due to their treatment of Uighurs in Xinxiang.
So, what is the reason for this behaviour of not only our nuclear-powered neighbour but also other Islamic countries? The reason lies in the belief of the West about the impressive growth and state-led development of China in last 30 years. In the current scenario, every country is dependent upon Chinese imports and wants to enter their multitrillion-dollar market so that they can also make money.
The case of Pakistan is even worst. The economy of the country is going through a dangerous turbulence. Western countries, as well as IMF, have cut down on aid. The domestic production is on a decline and corruption among the top leaders of the country has become a common scene. The only support is Chinese investment which is aimed at making Pakistan its second territory. If Pakistan starts showing their genuine concern towards Uighur Muslims, it may lose multibillion-dollar projects of China. In the current wake of China establishing its industrial, economic and military establishments in Pakistan rapidly, the day is not far when it will be another territory of China. And in such case, another Xinxiang is in making now.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).