Kashgar Officials Blame Pakistan for Harboring Uyghur Terrorists
Since U.S.-Pakistan relations took a nosedive following the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, Islamabad has appeared to try to woo China as its new superpower ally; Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, called China "Pakistan's best friend" on a visit to Beijing shortly after the bin Laden raid. But the courtship is hitting a rocky patch: Chinese officials say that attacks in the far western city of Kashgar over the weekend were planned in Pakistan, in Uyghur terror training camps there. From the New York Times:
While the Chinese routinely blame foreign meddlers for Xinjiang’s troubles, however, Monday’s statement was unusual in that it singled out Pakistan as the location of support for the assailants. China has a close military and economic relationship with Pakistan and has refrained from publicly criticizing the Islamabad government’s failure to control terrorist groups within its borders.
The Monday statement seemed more significant because it was released as the chief of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency, was said to be concluding a visit to Beijing at which Uighur separatists were likely to be discussed. Some Pakistani news reports placed the Pakistani official, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, in Xinjiang on Sunday, en route back to Pakistan.
Whether Kashgar’s city government cleared with Beijing officials its accusation that an attacker trained in Pakistan is not known. Local governments frequently act without Beijing’s approval. But as Xinjiang violence has risen, China’s central government has placed mounting pressure on Pakistan to find and root out any Uighur separatists on its territory. Pakistani intelligence officials were reported to have visited Beijing as recently as last month to reaffirm their intent to cooperate on the issue.
Added the Wall Street Journal:
The allegation is all the more striking as Pakistan, facing a crisis in relations with the U.S. since the killing of Osama bin Laden, has been working hard to portray China as its "all-weather friend" and an alternative source of civilian and military aid. Pakistani officials said in May that China had agreed to take over operation of the strategically positioned Pakistani port of Gwadar, and that Islamabad had asked Beijing to build a naval base there.
China's accusation joins a similar chorus from two of Pakistan's other neighbors, India and Afghanistan, which accuse it of failing to act against militant camps on its soil.
In response, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement promising "full cooperation" with China:
In response to a question concerning the incidents of violence in Kashgar, the Foreign Office Spokesperson said that all incidents of terrorism are deplorable.
Pakistan is fully confident that the patriotic people of Xinjiang autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China and, in particular, Kashgar as well as the Chinese government, will succeed in frustrating evil designs of the terrorists, extremists and separatists, who constitute an evil force.
Pakistan will continue to extend its full cooperation and support to the Government of the People’s Republic of China against the ETIM.
Uyghur activists, along with several foreign experts quoted in these news stories, suggested that blaming Pakistan was an attempt to dodge the fact that it is in fact local people, angry with Beijing's heavy-handed rule over the Uyghur-dominated province of Xinjiang, who are rising up. But the fact that they're pointing the finger at Pakistan is probably making some people in Islamabad pretty nervous. China takes the Uyghur issue VERY seriously, and if they really think that Pakistan is actually harboring Uyghur terrorists, the two countries aren't going to be best friends for long.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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