Militants threaten Pakistan-China relations

Tehreek-e-Taliban PakistanTTP has claimed responsibility for the murder of a Chinese woman who was visiting a market in Peshawar. The reasoning given by Taliban spokesman Muhammad Afridi should send a wake up call.

“Our comrades carried out the attack in Peshawar which killed the Chinese tourist,” Muhammad Afridi, a spokesman for a faction of the Pakistani Taliban from the Darra Adam Khel area, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location…Afridi said the militants were also demanding that China halt what he called its support for the Pakistani government’s campaign against militants.

Fresh riots in Xinjiang have left at least 20 people dead as Chinese security forces crack down on Islamic militants in the province.

The Xinjiang province’s state-run website said nine assailants charged and slashed a crowd of civilians during Tuesday’s violence in the Xinjiang community of Yecheng, killing 13 and injuring many others. Police then fatally shot seven attackers and detained two others, the report said.

Earlier state media reports put the overall toll at 12, describing it as a terrorist attack and saying 10 civilians and two assailants were killed. However, an overseas Uighur group, the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, said local Muslims were lashing out over government oppression and that most victims were armed Chinese security personnel.

Last fall, China pointed to Pakistan as the source of militancy in Xinjiang province, a claim that was brushed aside by many as complete nonsense. Now, Pakistani Taliban are murdering Chinese nationals in the street as ‘revenge’ for China’s crack down militants in Xinjiang. What is our excuse this time?

We continue to hold out hope that we can turn our backs on the West by facing East and finding a new patron in China. We need to think again. No matter how inclined China is to build a close relationship with Pakistan, they are not going to do so at the expense of their own security.

With this recent attack by Pakistani Taliban against a Chinese national, I want to revisit what I wrote last year:

If we believe that this is an internal issues only and that ‘all weather friend’ China will simply keep to themselves and not interfere in our own situation, we should think again. After all, it was China that ordered Lal Masjid raid was it not? Of course, this only makes sense. Sharing a border with Pakistan, China is not going to allow a rebellion to organise next door.

As a neighbor and growing world power, we would be poorly advised to alienate ourselves from China. It is easy to say that ‘all weather friend’ China will be there if we turn our back on America. But the truth is that China is not going to sit quietly while militant extremists use Pakistan as a play ground.

If we choose to continue to turn a blind eye to the militant virus that is spreading in our society, we will find ourselves isolated not just from the West but the East as well. The recent militant attack against a Chinese national who was a guest in our country should wake us up from the slumber of denial that has allowed this menace to fester under our very noses. If we rid our nation of extremism and militancy, we will take our proper place among the respected world powers. If we do nothing, we will be a pariah. The choice is ours to make.

Chinese officials name Pakistan as source of militancy

Chinese authorities are pointing at Pakistan as the source of militancy in the Xinjiang province.

Chinese police respond to militant attack in XinjiangChinese authorities on Monday accused Pakistan-trained Uighur separatists of planning and executing the first of two deadly attacks over the weekend that struck the ancient Silk Road town of Kashgar in China’s far-western Xinjiang region.

As the death toll rose to at least 18, the Kashgar city government said in a written statement that one of the surviving attackers had confessed that the group’s ringleader had gone to Pakistan for training in bomb- and gun-making by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a small Uighur group that advocates independence for Xinjiang.

“This is not a standalone incident. It is another terrorist act, plotted and planned by a small number of adamants in the current special circumstances,” the statement read.

When I wrote last month that China is not going to sit quietly while militant extremists use Pakistan as a play ground, I took some abuse from people who believe our own myths that China is an “all weather friend” who will stand by us even when jihadis are attacking them.

Let me tell you, when militants start raining death, the weather becomes unbearable. If we do not eradicate militancy from our borders, we will find ourselves not only isolated from the Americans but from the Chinese also. And if India, USA, and China are all against – who will we turn to then? We are running out of excuses and saviours.

Allowing militant training camps in the borders is a direct threat to our own national security. Not because these militants are immediately attacking us (though we have seen how quickly rabid dogs will turn to bite the hand that feeds him), but because by the countries that are attacked will decide that if we cannot take care of the problem, they will take care of it for us.

America is thousands of miles away. Their patience will be much greater than a neighbor we share a border with. If China is starting to name Pakistan as the source for militancy in their Western provinces, how long do you think before their patience runs out? Isn’t it better that we take care of the problem before they do…

Chinese Storms

Chinese soldiers

It is a popular point to make that Pakistan does not need the US because China will provide any aid we need and will not make demands on the government such as the American war on terror. This point usually goes alongside claims that terrorism will magically disappear when the Americans leave, even though it was here before they were. But there’s a good deal of reason to believe that this is not only fantasy, but backwards thinking.

China is a friend to Pakistan, that is certainly true. But China has no patience with militancy and extremism. The most recent example came just this week when China cracked down again on Muslim activists in Xinjiang.

Chinese officials have blamed Monday’s deadly attack at a police station in Xinjiang province on “terrorists” from the ethnic Uighur minority.

A local official told state media that one of the attackers had unfurled a banner with separatist slogans.

This latest incident comes two years after massive violence erupted between Muslims in Xinjiang and Chinese security forces.

Thousands of police and anti-riot troops later swept through the city, using teargas and water hoses to disperse crowds. “Now the whole city is on lockdown,” one witness said.

Chinese officials even threatened to close all mosques in the region to silence the uprising.

So let’s not fool ourselves – China has no patience with militancy, and will treat even its own citizens with an iron fist if its own security feels threatened.

If we believe that this is an internal issues only and that ‘all weather friend’ China will simply keep to themselves and not interfere in our own situation, we should think again. After all, it was China that ordered Lal Masjid raid was it not? Of course, this only makes sense. Sharing a border with Pakistan, China is not going to allow a rebellion to organise next door.

As a neighbor and growing world power, we would be poorly advised to alienate ourselves from China. It is easy to say that ‘all weather friend’ China will be there if we turn our back on America. But the truth is that China is not going to sit quietly while militant extremists use Pakistan as a play ground.

The biggest difference between Chinese and American reactions to terrorism, then, is that China will tell Pakistan what do when it threatens their own security, but if innocent Pakistanis are being killed, China will do nothing about it. America could easily go home and stop issuing visas thereby sealing its borders and securing itself against attacks. Instead it is sending its sons to die in the fight against the militants who are killing Pakistanis.

Obviously the Pak-US relationship needs to be revitalised. There is no question about that. But before we go scrapping relations with America and throwing all our hopes in with China, let’s take an unemotional look at the reality of the situation. No matter who our ‘most favoured partner’, if we refuse to face the facts and end militancy in our borders, our ‘all weather friend’ may turn out to be a perfect storm.

China, a friend, shouldn’t be our fantasy

The fanfare over PM’s visit to Beijing comes as little surprise. Frustrated with our most allied ally in the West, there is understandable reason for people to see some hope in the East. But I worry that we are making the same mistake with China that we make with US – expecting a benefactor and not a friend.

Our relations with the US go up and down as the US grants aid or assistance and expects something in return. We look to China which seems to expect less – but gives less also. But there is another point that must be examined more closely which is whether China really expects less in return for its friendship.

Consider the recent US raid over our borders. Many people are furious at the US for this unilateral action, but China also praised the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

“We have noted the announcement and believe that this is a major event and a positive development in the international struggle against terrorism,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said about the White House’s announcement that bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader who orchestrated the September 11 attacks, was killed in a U.S. raid, Chinese newspapers reported on Tuesday.

This is no surprise. China’s position on terrorism is basically same as US.

In the eyes of the Chinese government and people, bin Laden was a terrorist ringleader,” said Guo. “But I do think we have to understand that his death does not mean the death of al Qaeda — there’s still the real risk of counter-attacks.”

China is a member of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council that on Monday welcomed the news “that Osama bin Laden will never again be able to perpetrate such acts of terrorism”.

“China has always opposed all forms of terrorism,” said Jiang. “China advocates that the international community enhance international anti-terror cooperation and adopt comprehensive steps to treat both the symptoms and the root causes of terrorism.”

Actually, China – an athiest nation – has been concerned with the Muslims community of Uighurs in Xinjiang, many of which are training with Taliban and other militant groups. We can help China to suppress these groups, but at some point we will be faced with the same problem as we are with the US – our “ally” requesting us to “do more” while militant groups attack us demanding that we do less. This is something that journalist Huma Yusuf has warned about for years.

Uighur extremists and members of the outlawed East Turkestan Islamic Movement have already been blamed for sporadic terrorist activities. But if a militant movement that can trace its roots to Pakistan gains momentum in Xinjiang, the ire that Beijing is currently venting on the Uighurs – by detaining 1,400 of them, closing down mosques and upholding economically repressive policies – could be unleashed on Islamabad instead.

Will be then be complaining about Chinese requests to “do more”? Or will we see dark clouds gathering on our “all weather friendship”?

And it’s not only security matters that we need to be realistic about. We also need to recognize that the reality of our economic friendship with China is not going to be radically different from our economic ties to any other power. Farrukh Saleem explains perfectly that China is a friend, not a benefactor.

Gilani is in Beijing with the biggest begging bowl Jiabao has ever seen in his sixty-eight years. Historically, the highest grant assistance that comes to Pakistan comes from the US that contributes around 38 percent of our entire grant pool. Next comes Saudi Arabia that donates 19 percent followed by the UK at 18 percent and Japan at 8 percent.

Jiabao will not give what Gilani wants — budgetary support. China has foreign exchange reserves of over $3 trillion and Gilani is asking for only a couple of billions but China, as a matter of policy, does not dole out dollars for budgetary support.

China built the 1,300 kilometres Karakoram Highway and China doled out $198 million for the Gwadar Port. Jiabao is willing to invest even more in Pakistan’s infrastructure but Jiabao will not give what Gilani is asking for.

Gilani has air defence equipment — especially for our western borders — on his agenda as well. To be certain, Pakistan is critically short on modern air defence systems. Our man-portable air defence systems, like FIM-92 Stinger and FIM-43 Redeye, depend on the US manufacturers. Our Oerlikon 35mm twin cannons have an effective range of only 4,000 meters.

Since 2004, Uncle Sam’s MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers have been raining hellfire missiles into Pakistan’s wild west. So far, there have been a total of 241 strikes and some of those strikes have killed IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) fighters along with Uighur militants. Would Jiabao help Pakistan down a drone? Would Jiabao go against the rest of world to help us out?

PM’s mission in Beijing is to secure important agreements to aid our economic and military needs. This is a vital task. But we should not mistake our friend China for our fantasy China. Pakistan should be working to make agreements with all the world powers so that we can increase trade and improve our security. This idea that China will replace the US is basically Cold War thinking in which there are two sides to play against each other. But the Cold War is over. In the post-Cold War world China and the US are friends despite their differences, and we need to have good relations with both. Pakistan needs strong ties with China and strong ties with the US also. What we don’t need is another fantasy setting us up for a future in which we find ourselves left with no friends left at all.