WEB DESK: Pakistan has eliminated all members of the Uighur militant group the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) from its territory, but must remain vigilant to ensure they don’t return, the defence minister Khawaja Asif said in Beijing on Sunday.
China blames ETIM for carrying out attacks in its far western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, although many foreign experts doubt the group’s existence in a cohesive group.China, Pakistan’s only major ally in the region, has long urged Islamabad to weed out what it says are militants from Xinjiang, who are holed up in a lawless tribal belt, home to a lethal mix of militant groups, including the Taliban and al Qaeda.
“We believe they’re all eliminated,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters on the sidelines of a security forum. “I think there (were) a small number in tribal areas, they’re all gone or eliminated. There are no more there.” It is just as much in Pakistan’s interests as China’s to fight Uighur militants, Asif said, denying there was any difference of opinion between Beijing and Islamabad on Pakistan’s efforts to tackle the problem. “The fight against ETIM is our own fight. It’s not only China’s fight. It’s a joint fight against ETIM, between Pakistan and China, so there is absolutely no difference of opinion on the elimination of ETIM from our tribal areas,” he added.
“We have to be vigilant for a long time that this menace, this infection, does not return.”
Some Xinjiang government officials have said they believe Pakistan is not doing enough to prevent Uighurs from travelling there to become radicalised.
Hundreds have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past few years. Exiles and activists say Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uighur people is more a cause of the violence than well-organised militant groups.
China and Pakistan call each other “all-weather friends” and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbour, India, and a desire to hedge against US influence across the region.
China and Pakistan are getting ready to finalise a deal for China to sell eight submarines to Pakistan, Asif said, in what could be one of China’s largest overseas weapons sales once it is signed.
“It’s moving smoothly, it’s going ahead,” he said. “We are at the final stage. I think it won’t take very long.”
APP adds: Federal Minister said that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan was a guarantee for peace and stability of Pakistan and region. The minister lauded the proactive and positive efforts made by China in finding a peaceful resolution of Afghan problem.
He made these remarks while addressing the Xiangshan Forum’s plenary session on the topic `regional terrorism: roots and solutions,’ in Beijing, said a press release received here.
The benefits from projects like China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could be accrued only through peace which would usher in a new era of development and prosperity in the region, the minister added. He emphasised the need for addressing basic concerns of people of the region and to deny space to extremist elements who take advantage of the fault lines existing in their respective societies. In order to bring peace and stability, he called for “a need to introduce a counter narrative along with a comprehensive social, economic and political reforms package in line with the culture, traditions and aspirations of the people.”
The Minister condemned all acts of terrorism and called on the world community to recognise the basic reasons responsible for the fissures and fault lines existing within terrorism affected regions.
He also mentioned the hitherto unresolved conflicts of Palestine and Kashmir, the unending events of gross human rights violations and unfulfilled promises by the world community failing to address the root causes of these conflicts. He said that Pakistan gave refuge to over three million Afghans during the Afghan war.
The minister said continued instability in that country had severe impacts, adding that Pakistan had suffered a loss of 60 thousand lives and billions of dollars in economic loss.
He said that Pakistan’s armed forces had conducted various operations in tribal areas since 2003 and the latest operation Zarb-e-Azb vastly outnumbered achievements compared to other international forces’ achievements in Afghanistan since 13 years.
The world needed to recognise the sacrifices by Pakistan over the past three decades, he stressed.
Referring to south Asian security and stability, he said that all disputes needed to be resolved amicably to offset chances of escalation. While Pakistan had been forcefully advocating early resumption of dialogue process with India, there was a need to reduce tension by avoiding escalation of hostilities at the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, the Minister underscored. Participants from Pakistan also included several scholars and intellectuals including the Chairman Institute of Strategic Studies Khalid Mehmood, President Institute of Regional Studies Arif Ayub, and Director south Asian Strategic Stability Institute Maria Sultan.
Source: Business Recorder