No talks on Uighurs with China envoy, Pakistan minister says

Pakistani Minister for Religious Affairs met with Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing on Sep. 19, 2018. (Press Information Department)
Updated 22 September 2018

No talks on Uighurs with China envoy, Pakistan minister says

  • Met to discuss exchange program for Muslim scholars from both countries, Qadri says
  • Beijing criticized for alleged rights abuses against ethnic Muslim minority

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Noorul Haq Qadri, on Saturday denied media reports that he had voiced concerns about the Muslim Uighur community residing in China, during a meeting with Beijing’s top diplomat in Islamabad, earlier this week.

China has been widely criticized for alleged rights abuses against Muslims in the Xinjiang province, with reports saying that members of the community are detained, tortured and restricted from practicing their religion freely.

Despite international umbrage over the issue, Pakistan has so far avoided commenting on the matter due to its close proximity with China. “This [the Uighur issue] was not discussed,” Qadri told Arab News while discussing details about his interaction with Ambassador Yao Xing on Wednesday.

He added that, instead, the meeting focused on measures to institutionalize an exchange program for moderate Islamic scholars. “We will soon sign an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] on the exchange of scholars,” he said, adding that the objective of the proposed program was “to promote moderation”.

So far, the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad hasn’t issued any official statement pertaining to the meeting. However, ministry spokesperson Imran Siddique – in comments made to Arab News earlier – had said that Qadri was interested in China’s curriculum for Muslim students and that the meeting also explored the possibility of development work in Pakistan’s northwestern region which was previously under the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Siddique denied reports that China was planning internment camps for Muslims, saying that the delegation of religious scholars would be able to judge if the Chinese Muslims actually faced serious challenges or not. “China’s enemy is Pakistan’s enemy,” he said, sharing excerpts of Qadri’s conversation with the Chinese envoy. “Pakistan has also taken a clear stance on the economic corridor and maintained that Islamabad will not compromise on the project.”

He added that ambassador Xing was more interested in discussing the deprivations of people in Pakistan’s former tribal territories and looking for ways to address them. He talked in detail about empowering women and girls by way of providing education, medical and health facilities in the area.

Qadri’s meeting with ambassador Xing was held against the backdrop of an interview which saw Prime Minister’s Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood in attendance. Dawood, on his part, suggested that his country could suspend some of the projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for a year to “review or renegotiate agreements” under the arrangement and “get our act together”.

The talks coincided with a meeting between Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and President Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Thursday, wherein they agreed not to compromise on the security for CPEC-related projects.

Chinese officials have always denied allegations that they mistreat the Muslim minority in Xinjiang, with one Bureau of Human Rights Affairs official saying that his country was only educating Muslims to avoid spreading extremism.

Pakistan opposition draws thousands to capital to protest ruling party’s ‘foreign funds’ case 

Updated 19 January 2021

Pakistan opposition draws thousands to capital to protest ruling party’s ‘foreign funds’ case 

  • The Pakistan Democratic Movement urged the election commission to promptly announce its verdict in the case
  • The interior minister said the opposition alliance failed to attract large number of people to the protest demonstration 

ISLAMABAD: An alliance of Pakistani opposition parties, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), held a protest rally today, Tuesday, outside the election commission which is hearing a case involving alleged illegal foreign funding for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. 

The case was filed in November 2014 by a founding PTI member, Akbar S Babar, who claimed massive financial irregularities in the handling of foreign funds by the party that amounted to about $3 million. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has still not adjudicated the matter, making the PDM leadership criticize it for “the inordinate delay.” 

“Neither is this government elected nor has it any right to rule the country,” the opposition alliance chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said while addressing the participants of the rally in Islamabad. 

He accused the prime minister of contesting the 2018 elections after taking “funds from Israel and India,” adding that the foreign funding case was pending for the last six years even after a revelation by the State Bank of Pakistan that the PTI had 23 “hidden accounts.” 

Rehman said the ECP had held about 150 hearings in the case, noting that the PTI filed 50 applications for its deferment and that the nation was still awaiting the judgment. 

“Some powerful institutions had occupied the election system and brought an incompetent person to power,” he said. “They are now running the government from behind the scenes.” 

Criticizing the ECP, he said: “If this weak election commission provides them [the ruling party] protection, we won’t be able to trust it in the next elections.” 

Rehman said that no country in the world, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was willing to trust Pakistan due to the government’s “poor foreign policy.” 

“We will continue our struggle [against the government] within the legal and constitutional ambit,” he added. 

The opposition alliance has frequently accused the PTI of coming into power by manipulating the 2018 elections and promised to dislodge through public support. The government denies the charge of election rigging. 

Addressing the protest demonstration, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Sharif also accused the prime minister of getting funds from India and Israel and using for his 2014 sit-in to overthrow an elected government. 

“Do you know who funded him from India? Bharatiya Janata Party member Inder Dosanjh. And the Israeli who funded him was Barry C. Schneps,” she claimed, adding that “countless” such people and companies from Israel and India had funded the PTI. 

Mocking the ruling party’s statement in the foreign funding case in which it blamed its agents in the US for any possible illegal funding, she asked the prime minister should also reveal the names of the “agents who brought you into power.” 

Lambasting the ECP, she said the election commission was “part of the crime of selecting an unqualified person and bringing him to power.” 

Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior leader Faisal Karim Kundi said that the PTI had admitted that its agents accepted the funds from foreign countries and companies. 

“If the agents had done something wrong, it means that the PTI is involved in it,” he said, urging the ECP to give its judgment in the case. “The verdict will prove which enemy countries had funded the PTI,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Islamabad’s local administration had beefed up the federal capital’s security to avert any untoward incident during the opposition’s protest demonstration. It had deployed over 1,800 security personnel to maintain the law and order besides identifying alternate routes to ensure smooth flow of traffic. 

Responding to the opposition’s protest, Federal Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed termed it a “disappointing and poor” show and claimed that the opposition alliance had failed to attract a large number of protesters to its demonstration. 

“We welcome your long march [toward Islamabad] after this today’s show, and that will be your last show [of power],” the minister said, admitting that the opposition had all the right to address public gatherings. 

He also rejected the opposition’s accusations regarding Israel and India. 

“They [the opposition] were given a free hand [to protest outside the ECP], and they have been exposed,” he said. “We are waiting for their long march now.”