Governments in Islamabad have shied away from acknowledging allegations of mass incarceration of Muslims in Xinjiang
This handout picture taken on Oct. 20 and released by Pakistan's Prime Minister Office shows the Imam of Yanghang Mosque Abdureqip Tumulniyaz (right) greeting Pakistan's caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (left) on his arrival at Yanghang mosque in Urumqi, in China’s Xinjiang province. (Photo: AFP)
Pakistan's prime minister offered Friday prayers in China's Xinjiang province, as he became one of the few leaders of an Islamic nation to visit the region since more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities there were swept into detention facilities.
Successive governments in Islamabad have refused to acknowledge evidence of the mass incarceration of Muslims by its key economic ally in a region that borders Pakistan.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar traveled to China to take part in a summit hosted by President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week to celebrate his Belt and Road Initiative, a vast trade and infrastructure project.
On Friday, he offered prayers at the main mosque in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the northwestern region, and addressed a gathering of students and scholars.
A statement released by Kakar's office made no mention of the alleged human rights abuses.
He "lauded the strategic significance of Xinjiang as a frontier of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor", said a statement from his office.
Since its initiation in 2013, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has seen tens of billions of dollars funneled into massive transport, energy and infrastructure projects -- including plans for a railroad from Xinjiang to the Pakistan coast.
But the undertaking has been hit by Islamabad's struggle to maintain its financial obligations, as well as attacks on Chinese targets by militants.
Beijing says it has been defending itself against rising separatist militancy in Xinjiang, and that the detention facilities are voluntary centers for teaching vocational skills, closed years ago after their inhabitants "graduated" into stable employment.
"Pakistan has consistently adhered to a policy of non-interference in China's internal affairs and has lent its support to China in achieving its foreign policy objectives," Imtiaz Gul, analyst and executive director for the Center for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan.
"Any concerns related to human rights, such as the situation of the Uyghur population, are considered the internal affairs of Beijing."
Pakistan's leaders, however, frequently raise the alarm about rising Islamophobia in the West as well as the rights of Palestinians and Kashmiris.
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