The Pakistani government has pledged to attack Uighur militants opposed to the Chinese government who are hiding in Pakistan's volatile tribal regions. The assurances from the Pakistani leadership to a visiting top Chinese security official come a day after the United States said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on China to begin a dialogue with Washington on Pakistan.
Chinese Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu concluded two day's of meetings with Pakistani civilian and military leaders on Tuesday. Officials say the discussions focused on strengthening cooperation against terrorism and other crimes threatening the security of the two neighbors.
The bilateral talks took place amid allegations that Muslim extremists from China’s western Xinjiang region are using Pakistani soil for training and launching attacks on Chinese interests.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Meng Jianzhu that Pakistan will not allow militants of the outlawed Chinese group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, to use Pakistani soil for staging attacks in China.
“Whoever is the enemy of China is the enemy of Pakistan and therefore all those terrorists. irrespective of the fact they are from the ETIM or from the Uzbek movements, we will take them hard. They will have no room in this area and we will strike very hard against them,” Malik said.
The outlawed East Turkestan Islamic Movement says it represents the Muslim Uighur population in Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan. The militant outfit has claimed responsibility for attacks inside China and has issued statements threatening Beijing. ETIM fighters have allegedly received training in Pakistan’s tribal region bordering Afghanistan, where al-Qaida and other international extremist groups have their bases.
Interior Minister Malik says that his country has killed or extradited several Chinese militants in recent years to demonstrate its close anti-terrorism cooperation with China.
Speaking alongside the the Pakistani counterpart, Chinese Public Security Minister Meng reiterated that China will extend Pakistan an additional $1.25 million to help it build the capacity of its police and other security agencies.
The top Chinese security official visited Islamabad at a time when the already fragile ties between Islamabad and Washington have further deteriorated following scathing U.S. allegations that the Pakistani spy agency, the ISI, is supporting deadly attacks by Haqqani network militants on U.S. and NATO forces fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Pakistan rejects the allegations as baseless. The Pakistani senate’s defense committee, which met in Islamabad on Tuesday to discuss tensions with the United States, also denounced the American accusations. Speaking to VOA after the meeting, the committee’s chairman, Javed Ashraf Qazi, said the accusations are harmful to both Pakistan and the United States.
“We think that this is not the way to proceed forward [in countering terrorism]. If we have to win the war against terror, then we have to stand together. This blame game will get us nowhere," Qazi stated. "The only beneficiaries will be the terrorists against whom we have sacrificed so much already.”
Pakistani officials say Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will chair a multi-party conference on Thursday to try to come up with a united national stance for the country’s future course of action in the counter-insurgency campaign and cooperation with the United States.
The deliberations are likely to focus on the persistent U.S. demands for a crackdown on the Haqqani network, which is said to have its sanctuaries in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district. American officials say the insurgent group was behind this month’s attacks on U.S. embassy and a NATO base in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s increasing contacts with its longstanding ally, China, are seen by some Pakistani officials and independent observers as part of an effort to fill any possible diplomatic and economic gap should Washington decide to reduce its engagement with Islamabad.
Tuesday's high level security talks between Pakistani and Chinese officials also came a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a meeting with her Chinese counterpart in New York, called on China to begin a dialogue with the United States on Pakistan. As senior U.S. State Department officials put it, there is clearly an urgency given recent developments and the already close relationship that exists between Pakistan and China.