Muslim Pakistan says outcry over China detention camps ‘sensationalized’

Fild photo showing Indian Muslims holding placards during a protest against the Chinese government over the detention of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. (AFP)
Updated 20 December 2018
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Muslim Pakistan says outcry over China detention camps ‘sensationalized’

  • Some section of foreign media are trying to sensationalize the matter by spreading false information

Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday defended its close ally China against a growing outcry over Muslims who are being detained by Chinese authorities, saying the issue was being “sensationalized” by foreign media.
Numerous extrajudicial detention centers have been set up in China’s vast, troubled Xinjiang region, holding as many as one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.
Among them are believed to be dozens of women who married men from neighboring Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan, where people regularly cross the border into China for trade.
“Some section of foreign media are trying to sensationalize the matter by spreading false information,” Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs, told reporters at a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.
“As per Chinese authorities, out of 44 women, six are already in Pakistan. Four have been convicted on various charges, three are under investigations, eight are under going voluntary training. Twenty-three women are free and living in Xinjiang of their own free will,” he added.
In recent years, Pakistan has heavily pushed its relationship with China, lauding the tens of billions of investment dollars that Beijing is pouring into the country as a “game changer.”
Beijing has also upgraded the treacherous mountain road connecting Gilgit-Baltistan to Xinjiang.
But China has had difficulty reconciling its desire for development with fears that Uighur separatists will import violence from Pakistan.
Chinese authorities have long linked their crackdown on Xinjiang’s Muslims to international counter-terrorism efforts, arguing that separatists are bent on joining foreign extremists like Al-Qaeda.
They describe the camps as “vocational education centers” for people who appear to be drawn toward Islamist extremism and separatism.
But human rights activists say members of China’s Muslim minorities are being held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils, and that the region has become a police state.
Faisal said his ministry and Chinese authorities will continue to coordinate on this matter.
“The Chinese authorities have also offered to arrange visits to Xinjiang of the families of the convicted women,” said Faisal.


US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

Some of the 20 ministers, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, pose for a photo prior to the 55th Munich Security Conference in southern Germany, on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 41 min 54 sec ago
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US says ‘committed’ to defeating Daesh; allies skeptical

  • Acting US Defense Secretary Shanahan envisions a ‘bigger and stronger’ coalition to fight Daesh globally

MUNICH: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Friday that the US is committed to defeating Daesh in the Middle East and beyond, but officials said European allies are skeptical of Washington’s pledges.
US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that he was withdrawing all 2,000 US troops from Syria surprised and rattled allies. US officials have crisscrossed the Middle East in recent weeks to reassure them that Washington remains committed to the region.
Trump’s Syria decision was opposed by top aides, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit, leaving his deputy Shanahan in charge of the Pentagon.
“While the time for US troops on the ground in northeast Syria winds down, the United States remains committed to our coalition’s cause, the permanent defeat of Daesh, both in the Middle East and beyond,” Shanahan said after a meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
The meeting included about a dozen defense ministers from the coalition to defeat Daesh. Kurdish-led fighters are battling to capture Daesh’s last major stronghold in Syria, but even without territory, the militant group is widely seen as a continuing threat.
Shanahan said he envisioned a “bigger and stronger” coalition to fight Daesh globally. “We will continue to support our local partners’ ability to stand up to the remnants of Daesh,” he added.
However, European officials said they were given few details during the closed-door meeting in Munich and many questions remain. “We are still trying to understand how the Americans plan to withdraw. I don’t think there is any clarity still,” one European official, speaking on the condition of anonymity said.
Another official said Shanahan did not provide allies with a timeline of the American withdrawal from Syria and allies expressed skepticism during the meeting. A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no commitments were made during the meeting and there was little discussion about timelines.
“These meetings don’t tend to have specific deliverables or decisions, it tends to be more focused on taking stock of where we are,” the US official said.
Trump has said he expects a formal announcement as early as this week that the coalition fighting Daesh has reclaimed all the territory held by the group.
Around 20 ministers including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany will take part in the meeting, according to one source.
US forces are the largest contributors by far to the anti-Daesh coalition and their pullout will leave a vacuum in Syria where major powers are jostling for influence.

Withdrawal issue
“The withdrawal of the American troops from Syria will evidently be at the heart of discussions,” said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly before the meeting.
“Once the so-called caliphate no longer has any territory, the international community will have to guarantee that there will be no resurgence of Daesh in Syria or elsewhere,” her ministry’s statement said.
The end of Daesh territory in Syria is heightening worries about experienced militants and foreign fighters escaping and forming new Daesh cells in Syria or beyond.
Once American forces leave, another complication emerges: The future of areas in northern Syria controlled by Kurdish YPG forces, a key US ally in the fight against militants but a militia branded terrorists by Turkey.