Pakistan demands Kashmir action while ignoring China's Uighurs

07.08.2020

Even as Pakistan this week drew international attention to the plight of Muslims in Indian Kashmir, Islamabad stayed conspicuously silent about another embattled Muslim community – China's Uighur population.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has presented himself as a defender of Muslims worldwide and routinely speaks out on the disputed Kashmir region, even comparing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Adolf Hitler and accusing him of overseeing a genocide.

"We will never accept, and neither will the Kashmiris, the illegal Indian actions and oppression of the Kashmiri people," Khan said Wednesday as Pakistan marked the one-year anniversary of India stripping the Muslim-majority region of its semi-autonomous status.

This week he led a march through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as thousands took to the streets across the country.

But even amid mounting evidence of a harsh crackdown on the Uighur population in neighbouring China's Xinjiang region, Khan has refused to be drawn into the domestic affairs of Pakistan's long-time ally.

Rights groups estimate more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities have been rounded up into a network of internment camps, which China has branded "re-education centres".

Both Kashmiris and Uighurs have been subjected to curfews, profiling, and a massive presence of security forces along with moves to allow outsiders to settle in their homelands.

"Silence on Uighurs will also cost Pakistan credibility on the Kashmir issue," columnist Huma Yusuf wrote in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. "Khan has previously argued that the scale of the two issues is different. But this argument will not be enough if Pakistan wants to be perceived as a genuine champion of Muslims' and human rights when speaking on Kashmir."

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said such criticism was "justifiable".

"Pakistan should be held to a higher standard because it accords so much bandwidth and policy space to the plight of Kashmiri Muslims as well as Indian Muslims, while saying nothing about Uighurs," Kugelman said.    (AFP)

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