Terrorist genie

The Chinese government’s statement that extremists trained in camps in Pakistan were responsible for the violence in China’s north-west Xinjiang province is proof of the fact that terrorism does not respect national boundaries and relations  between  governments. China was late to realize the dangers of Pakistan’s policy of encouraging and equipping terrorists for hostile action against other countries. It has till now not found fault with that policy and the devious practices of the ISI  as long as  governments in India and Afghanistan were the victims. Beijing has not openly criticised the Pakistani government for supporting the Uighur nationalists who are fighting against Beijing’s control over Xinjiang. But it will  soon have to realize that the failure of the Pakistan government to control the terrorist genie at home has contributed to the violent  situation it is facing in Xinjiang.

That does not mean that the unrest in Xinjiang is manufactured outside the province and imported there. It has arisen from the repressive policies of the Chinese government in the region which was till now dominated by a Muslim ethnic group of Turkic origin.  In the name of development and integration with the Chinese mainstream Beijing has systematically tried to eliminate  Xinjiang’s ethnic  identity. The native population which once formed the overwhelming majority is now a minority because of colonization by China’s Han ethnic group.  Religious and political freedoms have been suppressed. The revolt against Chinese policies has seen persistent violence in the last many years. Last weekend 20 people were killed in such violence.  Ethnic strife had left 200 dead in Urumqui, the capital of the province,  two years ago. There is a strong separatist demand led by a  group called East Turkistan Islamic Movement.  It is active in areas in Pakistan bordering Xinjiang and is considered to be behind most of the violence in the province.

The growing discontent in Xinjiang and the availability of terrorist infrastructure and expertise in neighbouring Pakistan may make conditions more and more difficult for Beijing.  Instead of respecting the aspirations of the local population China is  trying to further tighten its grip over Xinjiang through economic control, demographic engineering and suppression of rights.  Pakistan may not have actively supported the activities of Uighur nationalists against China. But just as the Pakistani government and society have now become victims of the forces it once encouraged, the wind that it sowed may  become  a whirlwind in  friendly China.

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