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Pakistanis waking up to the plight of Uyghurs in China, finally

It is not for the first time that Pakistan has refused to criticise its 'iron brother' over the systematic suppression of Uighur Muslims in China

Even a week after he invited scathing criticism from all corners of the world for refusing to criticise China over its alleged abuses in the Xinjiang region, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to be lambasted for his hypocrisy amid growing support for Uyghur Muslims at home.  

In an interview to Jonathan Swan of Axios, the Pakistani PM had once again highlighted Islamabad's abject surrender to Beijing over the ethnic cleansing, recognised as Uyghur genocide by many countries.  
When asked about his silence on the issue in spite of being quite vocal about Islamophobia in the West, the cricketer-turned politican tried to flick it away smartly but failed miserably.

"What our conversations have been with the Chinese, this is not the case according to them. Whatever issues we do have with the Chinese, we will always discuss them behind closed doors. China has been the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times. When we were really struggling, our economy was really struggling, China came to our rescue. So, we respect the way they are," he said saying that he is more focused on matters within his country and on its border.

"This is on your border," Swan responded swiftly.

As the video of the interview went viral on social media, not just the Uyghurs and human rights activists all over the globe but also several Pakistanis voiced their anger against Khan for turning a blind eye towards the treatment of Muslim minority in China. For the first time, hashtags like #UyghurMuslimsNeedHelp are trending in Pakistan.

However, it is not for the first time that Pakistan has refused to criticise its 'iron brother' over the systematic suppression of Uighur Muslims in China.

At the sidelines of the Davos Summit last year, Imran Khan had openly admitted that he did not know much about the issue.

"At the moment I do not know enough about it and if I have I will speak to the Chinese privately about it as that's the way they like it," he had said during an interview.

In a report released on June 24, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs have revealed the scale of China’s transnational repression of Uyghurs from 1997 to the present.

The report, titled 'No Space Left to Run: China’s Transnational Repression of Uyghurs', also mentions how, over the course of the 1990s, Pakistan grew increasingly cooperative with its 'all-weather' ally.

"While there is no evidence of an official agreement to monitor Uyghur activities, Pakistan’s activities in the late 1990s hint that an agreement had likely been reached, formally or otherwise. As early as 1997, for example, Pakistan deported 14 Uyghurs (the first instance of Uyghurs being extradited at China’s request, marking a watershed in the evolution of Chinese transnational repression) who were studying at local madrassas after Beijing accused them, without concrete evidence or trial, of being 'terrorists intent on splitting Xinjiang from China' in the wake of the Ghulja conflict," the report details.

It also said that in 2004, China added Article 4 to its dealings with Pakistan, stipulating that neither party would allow the establishment of "any organization or body" that could threaten the "sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity of the other." 

Also Read: Pakistan's Uyghur Muslim sell-out to China blows a big hole in its pro-Islam pitch