China’s mistreatment of Uighurs is ‘nothing’ compared to India’s actions in Kashmir: Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that his government does not condemn the treatment meted out to Uighur Muslims in China because Islamabad and Beijing are friends. Khan told Foreign Policy magazine that Pakistan raises these matters with China privately, not in public. He was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Asked why he is quiet about the oppression of Chinese Muslims in Xinjiang, while criticising India over its policies in Jammu and Kashmir, Khan said: “One main reason is that the scale of what is going on in China – and frankly, I don’t know much about it, I just occasionally read about it – is nothing compared to what is happening in Kashmir.”

India had on August 5 revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, and divided it into two Union Territories. It also imposed a curfew and a complete communications blockade in the region. However, the curfew and the communications ban are slowly being eased.

When the interviewer reminded Khan that China has detained between one million and two million Muslims in Xinjiang, he said: “But what is happening in Kashmir is eight million people under siege for five months. Over the last 30 years, about 100,000 people have been killed in Kashmir. And all the top [Kashmiri] leadership is in jail. So it’s the scale of what is happening.”

On January 17, Khan said Islamabad was willing to hold a referendum in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to give people the right to decide whether they want to remain in the country or be independent. He claimed that “Azad Kashmir” held free and fair elections.

On Wednesday, the Pakistan prime minister said Beijing had helped Islamabad when his country was at “rock bottom”. “So we are really grateful to the Chinese government, and we decided that whatever issues we will have with China, we will deal with them privately,” he said. “We will not go public.”

Khan also claimed that the Haqqani network terrorist group had no presence in Pakistan. He said he had asked both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the United States to point out the locations in Pakistan which are safe havens for the Haqqani network.

The Pakistan prime minister said that the United States and the United Nations should send observers to the Line of Control, claiming India has been bombing the area to distract from the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

“We’re not close to conflict right now, but it’s important that the United Nations act, that the US act,” Khan said, when asked whether India and Pakistan are close to going to war. “The Indian [Lok Sabha] election campaign, which Modi won hands down, was built on jingoism and hatred for Pakistan. So my worry is that things will get worse in India.” Khan also said he does not believe that war can solve problems.