The prime minister of Pakistan, Islamist former sports star Imran Khan, told Chinese reporters his country accepts China’s denials that the Communist Party is committing genocide against Muslim ethnic minorities, the Pakistan newspaper Dawn reported Thursday, despite overwhelming evidence to the country.
Dawn claimed Khan made the remarks Thursday, but similar comments appeared in the Chinese government media outlet Global Times on Tuesday. Khan excused Beijing for its systematic demolition of mosques, internment of Muslims in concentration camps, and mass sterilization campaigns “because of our extreme proximity and relationship with China,” he reportedly said.
Pakistan and China share a border — and a territorial dispute with India over the Kashmir territory — and have maintained friendly relations under Khan’s tenure. Pakistan is a key member of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its global infrastructure debt trap initiative, as it stands in between China and larger BRI projects throughout Central Asia and Europe. While reports throughout Khan’s tenure have suggested his administration is concerned Pakistan will not be able to pay back the suspected high-interest loans it is taking out to build BRI projects, and has attempted to negotiate debt relief with Beijing, the details of the deal are not public and Khan has not revealed any hesitancy regarding BRI in public.
Khan gave an interview to Chinese state propagandists on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China, which Beijing marked on July 1.
“Because of our extreme proximity and relationship with China, we actually accept the Chinese version,” Khan said this week, according to Dawn. He added that concerns over the mass extermination of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities coming from the free world were “hypocritical.”
“There are much worse human rights violations taking place in other parts of the world such as in occupied Kashmir,” Khan claimed. “But Western media hardly comments on this.”
No widespread reports of concentration camps, mass sterilization, live organ harvesting, or state-sponsored slavery exist in Kashmir, as they do in Xinjiang, China.
Khan also used the occasion to celebrate the Communist Party for promoting totalitarianism.
“Until now, we had been told that the best way for societies to improve was through Western democracy. … The [Communist Party] has introduced an alternative model and they have beaten all Western democracies in the way they have highlighted merit in society,” Khan asserted.
China, he continued, “has achieved much better [outcomes] without democracy. Their system for sifting through talent and bringing it up is better than the democratic system.” Khan also lamented that “rules and regulations” in free states make it “difficult to bring change” to a country and applauded China’s handling of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which studies have shown was so poor it actively created a pandemic out of a situation that may have remained a regionalized epidemic without significant Communist Party blunders.
“Whenever Pakistan has been in trouble, politically or internationally, China has always stood with us. The people of China have a special place in the hearts of Pakistanis,” Khan said effusively. “In Pakistan, we admire the the Chinese president for two reasons: for his fight against corruption […] and for bringing people out of poverty.”
Khan later added that he believed it “unfair” that free societies “expect countries like Pakistan to take sides” against China and reiterated support for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistani wing of the BRI.
“The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a flagship program of the Belt and Road Initiative, and for Pakistan, it is the one program which gives us the greatest optimism and hope for our future economic development,” Khan was quoted as saying.
Human rights organizations and foreign governments believe that China began building concentration camps in Xinjiang, its westernmost province, in 2017 for the Uyghur ethnic group, which is indigenous to that territory and refers to it as East Turkestan. By 2019, the U.S. government estimated that as many as 3 million people — most of them Uyghurs, but some belonging to other Muslim groups like Kyrgyz and Kazakh people — were trapped in the camps. Camp survivors have testified at international venues to being subject to extreme communist indoctrination, forced to eat pork and learn Mandarin, and experiencing extreme torture. Chinese officials used torture devices such as the “tiger chain” and forced camp prisoners to endure gang rape, electroshock, and sleep deprivation, among other tortures, survivors have said.
Multiple reports citing online advertisements for slaves and satellite images of slavery sites have also indicated that China has turned many concentration camp victims into slaves, using them to pick cotton or shipping them to factories nationwide.
In October, Khan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf described the human rights crisis as a “non-issue.”
“Even our delegations have visited, we have seen, and we are 100 percent satisfied that it’s a non-issue,” he said in an interview at the time. “The West can say what it wants. I am telling you as a responsible official, we know everything we need to know about the Uyghurs and everything else in China as they do about us. We have zero concerns, absolutely zero concerns.”
Khan’s government has claimed to be cracking down on Muslim “extremists” through actions against the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement” (ETIM), an alleged terrorist organization the existence of which the U.S. government has found no evidence corroborating.
While muted in response to human rights atrocities committed against Muslim civilians, Khan has embraced radical Islamic elements in his country and made statements apparently supporting terrorism. Khan particularly angered American observers last year in remarks lamenting the elimination of “martyr” Osama bin Laden, the head of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Khan is also the most vocal head of state in promoting the implementation of a global “blasphemy” law that criminalizes any criticism of Islam anywhere in the world.
“Blasphemy in the garb of freedom of expression is intolerable,” Khan said in November.
Khan has urged fellow Muslim nations to boycott trade with Western countries that have not criminalized blasphemy against Islam and encouraged the United Nations to use its agencies to punish blasphemers.