By Kok Bayraq
The ousted Prime Minister had become famous for his extravagant praise of China and Xi Jinping, and refusal to acknowledge the Uyghur genocide.
Imran Khan with Xi Jinping. Source: Government of Pakistan.
Two weeks ago, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan praised China, claiming that Beijing had elevated 700 million people from poverty. He also stated that China “follows the teachings of the Prophet [Muhammad].”
On April 10, Imran Khan was ousted from office by a vote of non-confidence by the Pakistani Parliament. Uyghurs will not miss him.
While many were surprised by the comparison of the Chinese Communist Party to Prophet Muhammad, Uyghurs were not. We had already witnessed many Imran Khan-like figures competing to praise China. One such figure, Shaptul Damollam, in his infamous speech in 1936, had praised Sheng Shisai, the governor of Xinjiang at that time, as follows: “If Muhammad weren’t [the] last prophet, Sheng Shisai might be one today.”
History is repeating itself; the character of the dictator and the methods of adulation are the same, but the adulators must renew their words to gain profit. Using the same tone and words does not inspire dictators, who expect more before they grant their rewards. Thus, no matter how illogical, the adulator will say something new and different. That is how these relationships work—one side depends on the other’s pocketbook.
I predicted such a statement from Imran Khan nine months ago. In a privately circulated article, I called on readers not to be too upset with Imran Khan’s unrealistic praise of China because more and stranger praise was yet to come. I stated that Imran Khan might say, “What China is doing to Uyghurs is the same as what Prophet Muhammad did to his Ummah (the community of all Muslims).”
It was a prophecy of sort. The following paragraphs are from my July 3, 2021, article.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s hypocritical, unfair stance on China’s genocide against its Uyghur people has been criticized by many, but until now one point has gone unremarked: Khan’s apparent reluctance about accepting China’s version of the Uyghur reality. He is still not at the point of China’s expectation.
Since the exposure of that reality—concentration camps in which at least two million Uyghurs are detained and undergoing indoctrination, physical abuse, and even sterilization—China has invited more than 1,000 visitors to the region, mostly diplomats and journalists from Muslim countries. China’s efforts have been aimed at building a frontline of Muslim leaders who will defend China’s Uyghur policy against the West by mouthing that “the Uyghurs are the happiest Muslims in the world; all nations should learn from China’s ethnic policy rather than criticizing it.”
However, Khan’s statements have been not accommodating enough to China. Let’s look at the chronology and implications of what he has said regarding China’s ethnic genocide against its Uyghurs.
Khan’s first statement on the topic, given to the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) in January 2019, was “I do not know the exact situation in Xinjiang.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (first and second from left) praying at Millat Mosque in Ankara, January 2019. From Facebook.
This statement fell far short of China’s expectations and was doubtless unsatisfactory for the CCP, being the equivalent, in China’s eyes, of saying, “I do not see ethnic harmony in the region, and I am unsure whether what China says about the Uyghurs is accurate.”
In March 2019, Khan reiterated his lack of awareness regarding the Uyghur situation to the Financial Times, saying, “Frankly, I don’t know much about that.” When pressed, he added, “If I had enough knowledge, I would speak about it. It is not so much in the papers.”
China had a “right” to be dissatisfied with Khan’s statements, given that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is investing $60 billion in Pakistan’s infrastructures, including $6.8 billion in railway upgrades and new highways, as part of the Belt and Road initiative.
Khan’s most controversial statement about the Uyghurs was made to Axios in June 2021: “China has been one of the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times.” However, this pronouncement was not as praiseworthy as it appeared, given that it went on to say, “…our conversations with Beijing on Xinjiang… would happen behind closed doors.”
With this statement, Khan not only failed again to meet China’s expectations, but he also crossed a red line by indirectly acknowledging the existence of a serious ethnic problem in the region and implying that China has taken indefensible actions against the Uyghurs, although he would not speak about them publicly.
Finally, in his most recent statement [as of July 2021] , Khan admitted that China’s version of the Uyghur reality differs completely from what is being reported in Western media. He didn’t say, “We look different.” In addition, the statement clearly and repeatedly expressed his reasoning: “Because of our extreme proximity to and relationship with China, we actually accept the Chinese version.”
All Khan’s statements have clearly and continuously indicated that Pakistan is unable to stand with the Uyghurs because of its economic dependence on China. Such declarations have the potential to enrage Chinese officials because they expose a state secret: China is bribing poor countries, especially Muslim ones, to shout their mouths about the Uyghur genocide and crimes against humanity. Were Khan the CCP secretary of the Uyghur region or serve as an official of the Chinese state, he could be sentenced to death for his statements.
The question is, does Khan’s reluctance to proclaim China’s version of the Uyghur reality originate from his conscience or his politics?
Conscience can hardly be a factor in Khan’s reluctance, given that he does not hide the fact that he profits from condoning China’s Uyghur genocide, so the real factor is most likely political. He wants to maintain the support of Muslim communities worldwide, including in Pakistan, while not offending China. His strategy may also include a plan to extract more from China by meeting its expectations only incrementally, step by step.
Obviously, China’s carrot-and-stick diplomacy, which has enabled it to enlist 50 poor countries against the West, cannot tolerate Khan’s reluctance forever, so his statements on the Uyghur tragedy will doubtless become more supportive of China in the future. The world should not be surprised at any time to hear Khan say, “I admire the happiness of the Uyghur Muslims, who enjoy more religious rights than Muslims in either Western or Muslim countries.” And, “What China is doing is the same as what Muhammad did for his Ummah.”
When I wrote this article in July 2021, had no crystal ball. But my prediction was correct.
Let’s look now at the substance of Imran Kham’s claims.
Yes, it is true that there are less poor in China (although statistics are controversial among scholars). While the CCP was in power when this occurred, we must ask where the development would have happened if the CCP had not been in power. There is no way to know, because the CCP has not given other powers the chance to dominate the country. But—is there no recognition of the tears of 1.4 billion hardworking Chinese people in that development? Did not China benefit from contributions by other countries to global development, including technology? What about the USA’s effort to include China in the World Trade Organization? Of course, when you depend on the CCP, you can’t give credit to any of these contributions, even if you think it should be so.
Yes, the Prophet encouraged Muslims to be wealthy by saying, “The upper hand is better than the lower one (the upper being the one which bestows and the lower [the] one which begs).” He has also said, “Poverty almost leads to disbelief.”
One of the five Islamic teachings on wealth is that Muslims must earn their wealth in a lawful, or halal, way. It is not to be earned by occupying, torturing, corrupting, cheating, or killing others. God advises against this: “O, you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent” (Quran 4:29).
When we assess China’s development, we should ask how they achieved it. How many people were jailed who demanded human rights? How many Chinese students died during the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989? Should we forget how many people died in the Lhasa uprising 2008? How many Uyghurs died in the 2009 Urumchi Incident? What about the Uyghur Genocide taking place right now? Does the CCP have no problem detaining 3 million Uyghur Muslims for 5 years and taking 500,000 of their children to China to prevent them from becoming Muslims? Do we believe that this “Sinicization” must be tolerated?
I think that Imran Khan knows the true answers to these questions, but his current mental state does not allow him to voice them. Previously, he stated that he needed urgent help from China, so he was selective on Islamic teachings when focusing on China’s money.
Imran Khan visits Putin in Moscow on February 24, 2022. Credits.
After his ousting, Imran Khan is now rallying supporters and telling them he is a victim of an American plot because of his friendship with China and Russia (he rushed to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow immediately after the invasion of Ukraine began).
He needs Chinese help, again. We shouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, Imran Khan will compare Xi Jinping to God to get this support.