Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has once again evaded the question on China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, stating on Thursday, 23 January, in an interview during the World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos, that he does not know much about the issue and his priorities right now are on Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
Asked in an interview with Mishal Husain of BBC if he has any concerns about the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang province in Northern China, he said:
"“At the moment I do not know enough about it. If I have, we will speak to China privately because that’s how they are.”" - Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan
Imran Khan on China's treatment of Uighur Muslims: "At the moment I do not know enough about it... I'm afraid I do not know about it." pic.twitter.com/MWoxxiB7yg— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) January 23, 2020
The prime minister has held the same position for almost a year now, having first fielded the question in an interview with Financial Times on 27 March 2019. In a series of tweets provided by Naila Inayat, a Pakistani journalist, the PM is seen avoiding the question on three separate occasions.
Question: what's your stance on China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims?— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) March 27, 2019
PM Khan: frankly, I don't know much about that.. pic.twitter.com/lNoNDdN6NX
Pakistan has bolstered its rhetoric against India since the abrogation of Article 370 concerning the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview with German-based Deutsche Welle (DW) on 16 January, he said that he chose not to speak about China since they are very "sensitive".
“First, the scale of what is happening in India is not comparable to what is supposedly happening to the Uighurs in China. Second, China has been our great friend. It has helped us in our most difficult times because of the economic crisis my government inherited. Therefore, we do talk about things with China privately, not publicly, as these are sensitive issues,” he added.
"We do not talk about things with China in public right now because they are really sensitive."— DW News (@dwnews) January 23, 2020
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's response when asked by DW about his stance on China's crackdown against the Uighur people. pic.twitter.com/lOvbqDDtjq
When stressed again on his obliviousness on the issue, Khan said that “our major concern is what is happening to a Pakistani disputed territory. Speaking to Al Jazeera News in September 2019, the question regarding a formal discussion between Pakistan and China on Uighur Muslims was raised again.
When asked about China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims, primer minister of Pakistan says, "frankly, we've been facing so many of our internal problems that I don't know much about this problem." pic.twitter.com/wLkfYZkq1Z— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) September 14, 2019
“We have been facing so many of our internal problems right now, I don’t really know much about it,” he said.
"“At the moment my responsibility are the people of Pakistan. I have 210-220 million people I am responsible to.”" - Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan
China-Pakistan Economic Relations
Historically, Pakistan has never been a popular destination for investments due to its corruption problem until China came along. In 2001, China offered to build a shipping port in the small fishing town of Gwadar, on Pakistan’ southern coast.
The port was built under the CPEC in three phases, with the first phase already competed. In 2015, the port was leased to China for a period of 43 years. In addition to the port, a new highways and railways networks connected the port to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. By 2018, these projects added to a USD 62 billion, with at least $33 billion of this amount expected to be invested in energy projects. This sizable investment led to Pakistan’s highest GDP growth rate in eight years, says an Asian Development Bank report.
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