by WorldTribune Staff, January 13, 2019
Pakistan, a country with a 90 percent Muslim population, was among the first to criticize China’s detention of more than one million Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.
Many of the Uighurs being held in re-education camps in China’s Xinjiang province are the wives of Pakistani men.
Pakistan’s criticism of the Beijing regime, which surfaced in September, has not only disappeared in recent months but transformed to the point where Pakistani officials are praising China, insisting that the Muslims are “undergoing voluntary training” at the camps.
Activists and critics say the reason for Pakistan’s change of heart is quite simple – money.
Peter Irwin, a project manager at the World Uighur Congress in Munich, said China was “buying the silence of Pakistan.”
Pakistan is a key beneficiary of the China Belt and Road Initiative. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a $62 billion partnership between the two countries consisting of transport and energy projects, some of which pass directly through Xinjiang.
“It’s possible that Pakistan has moved towards tacit endorsement of China’s ‘re-education’ facilities in Xinjiang because it considers the Chinese Communist Party’s justification of its Xinjiang policy – in terms of counter-terrorism and stability maintenance – as being beneficial to the security and longevity of the CPEC project,” Simone van Nieuwenhuizen, a Chinese politics researcher at University of Technology Sydney, told Business Insider.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told Turkey’s TRT World news channel last week that “In this doom and gloom which we inherited, the Chinese have been a breath of fresh air for us. They have been extremely helpful to us … we have these plans of reviving our economy, [and] China is going to play a huge part.”
Of the detention of the Uighurs and other minorities, Khan said “I don’t actually know much” about the situation in Xinjiang.
Irwin said that Khan’s statement “was incredibly worrying, but very much expected.” Khan is grappling with a troubled Pakistani economy and knows that China is a stable source of funding and that “he simply needs to keep his mouth shut.”