Does it matter if Pakistan raises its voice for the Uighurs issue?

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Does it matter if Pakistan raises its voice for the Uighurs issue?

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Pakistan has always been very vocal in its support for Palestine and it calls out Israel for its role as an occupying entity. Islamabad’s policy has been consistent for decades, even though there have been a few rare direct contacts with the Israeli leadership as well as the Jewish community in the United States. However, does Islamabad maintain a similar stance when it comes to the oppression of Muslim minorities elsewhere in the world, too? Take, for instance, Syria, Myanmar, and China where Pakistan’s policy obviously lacks consistency and coherence.
Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has actively led the decolonization campaign at the UN fora, which became instrumental for the independence of several countries in Asia and Africa. Though the Islamic republic lacked the military muscle back then that it boasts of today, it did have the will-power to shun colonial might and stand for the rights of indigenous people.
Pakistan did not choose to keep mum when the Kremlin slew the Chechens in two wars and stood up for the rights of Bosnians, too. It even housed a few thousand Bosnian refugees until peace returned in the Balkans. Yet, the Muslim world’s sole nuclear power pondered for a decade before it recognized Kosovo as an independent country.
While Saudi Arabia and Turkey extend full diplomatic and humanitarian support for the Rohingya Muslims facing systematic persecution at the hands of religious fanatics and the military, Islamabad did not stop manufacturing JF-17 Thunder fighter jets for Yangoon.
Uighurs of Eastern Turkmenistan remain an outcast in China as we speak. Additionally, more than 26 million Turkic Muslims live next door to Pakistan in abject media blackout and extreme oppression, United Nations reports suggest.

Uighurs of Eastern Turkmenistan remain an outcast in China as we speak. Additionally, more than 26 million Turkic Muslims live next door to Pakistan in abject media blackout and extreme oppression, United Nations reports suggest.

Naveed Ahmad

In August 2018, a UN committee was informed that more than one million Uighur and other Muslim groups faced persecution in the western Xinjiang region. The evidence of oppressive surveillance against the Uighurs, which total around 11 million in Xinjiang, continues to pile up. They are being re-educated to become a part of China’s atheist society. The government denies such reports and deems any reference to their plight as interference in its internal matters.
For Pakistan, Uighurs seem to live in a perfect world, enjoying all the rights of a Chinese citizen. Unlike the oppression of Indian Muslims in indian administered Kashmir and Palestine, the Turkic Muslims of China have been ignored.
A few months ago, news reports suggested that Pakistan’s minister of religious affairs did raise the issue of Uighurs with the Chinese ambassador. After Beijing’s embassy in Islamabad categorically denied the subject being raised, the cabinet member clarified that the news reports were figments of certain journalists’ imagination.
The more China’s financial might and military muscle grow, the less likely it would be held accountable for its actions. Besides, Beijing has successfully prevailed upon some developing countries by refusing to comment on their internal matters, ranging from anywhere between targeted persecution of defiant opposition figures and communities to genocide.
China’s contribution to the emerging cold peace seems best served with hyper-nationalism, economic protectionism, and political conservatism. 
Bereft of its signature Islamic solidarity for all, Islamabad is contradicting its very own ‘principled’ stance on Jammu and Kashmir, and Palestine. Prime Minister Imran Khan has a history of speaking against Islamophobia. He has gone to extra lengths to criticize the west. Islamophobia in the east is as evil as it is in the west. Will the premier call a spade a spade here too, especially since the Asian giant gains access to the Arabian Sea while avoiding the murky waters of the South China Sea for the ease of its import and exports which is worth billions of dollars. 
Sooner or later, Beijing will have to take a clear stance on several issues it now chooses to sidestep in the name of non-interference. With great power comes great responsibility. 
Being a rival superpower, China won’t be asserting its influence without weighing in on the oppressive actions of other states. Meanwhile, it will have to provide better answers about its troubling internal policies too if it hopes to enjoy the fruits of the free-market economy.
– Naveed Ahmad is an investigative journalist and academic based in the GCC with a career in writing on diplomacy, security and governance. Besides other honors, he won the Jefferson Fellowship in 2000 and UNAOC Cross-Cultural Reporting Award 2010.
Twitter: @naveed360

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