Washington, January 31 : Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's work in projecting himself as the messiah of Muslims around the world has been undercut by his deafening silence on the atrocities on the Uyghur Minorities by the country's all-weather ally China, said Michael Kugelman, the Deputy Director of the Asia Program and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center.
In an opinion piece in Foreign Policy, Kugelman cited the reason behind Khan's silence on the issue, saying Islamabad depends heavily on Beijing for economic and political support. Pakistan simply cannot afford to antagonise Beijing by calling it out. When asked publicly about the Uyghurs issue, Khan's responses range from he knows little about the matters to saying he is privately discussing the matter with Beijing.
According to Kugelman, one of Khan's top advisor, Moeed Yusuf, went so far as to say that the government is "100 per cent satisfied" that the situation was a "nonissue," adding: "We have zero concerns, absolutely zero concerns."
Moreover, some of Khan's backers claim he remains silent as the matter is strictly internal to China. However, Kugelman said this hasn't stopped him from weighing in on the plight of Muslims in Myanmar or, most recently, France.
"But Khan's work in championing the world's Muslims is undercut by his deafening silence on the oppression of the Uyghur community in China," he wrote.
"The real reason for Khan's silence is simple: China is arguably Pakistan's closest ally, and Islamabad depends heavily on Beijing for economic and political support. Pakistan simply cannot afford to antagonise Beijing by calling it out," he added.
China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.
Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party's brutal crackdown on the ethnic community, according to a report.
Recently, a commission of the United States Congress, in a new report, said that China has possibly carried out "genocide" against Uyghurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang.
The report, released by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), stated that the Chinese government and Communist Party have taken unprecedented steps to extend their repressive policies through censorship, intimidation, and the detention of people in China for exercising their fundamental human rights.
The Muslim world limits its criticism of China to avoid jeopardizing critical trade and investment opportunities, Kugelman said.
"In some cases, it has even lent its support: In 2019, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a global body comprising nearly 50 Muslim-majority states, released one statement praising Beijing's treatment of Muslims and another agreeing with China's claim that detaining Uyghurs is an effective counterterrorism tactic. Since then, the organization has been publicly silent on the issue," he wrote.
"Global Islamophobia is an ugly reality, and Khan's determination to combat it is laudable. But so long as he remains silent about the Uyghurs, the pledges he makes to champion the causes of the world's Muslims will ring hollow," he further wrote.