XINJIANG: The Chinese authorities have said there is no evidence that Pakistan-trained Chinese Muslim separatists were the perpetrators behind the July 30 and 31, 2011 twin terrorist attacks in the Kashgar city of the trouble stricken Xinjiang province of China that killed 20 people.
The Kashgar city government had claimed in the first week of August this year [on the basis of the initial probe into the July attacks] that the attackers belonged to the East Turkistani Islamic Movement (ETIM) and had learnt the skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group in the tribal areas of Pakistan before entering Xinjiang to conduct terrorist activities. However, some senior Chinese foreign office officials told this scribe the other day during a briefing in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, that although some Chinese Muslim separatists are using the Pakistani territory to pursue their agenda, there is no evidence that those involved in the Kashgar attacks had been trained in those camps.
According to Zhang Xiaodi, the director general of the foreign affairs office in Xijiang, investigations into the July attacks have shown that the attackers were all Uighurs Muslims who had bought their weapons locally. On the other hand, however, the fact remains that the Pakistan-based ETIM has already claimed involvement in a series of militant attacks in Xinjiang, including the one in Kashgar. In a video released in September 7, 2011, Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, the leader of the Muslim separatist militant organisation endorsed the August 1, 2011 claim by the city government of Kashgar that the TIP had carried out the July 30 and 31, 2011 attacks.
In the aftermath of the two terror attacks in Kashgar, the city government released a statement on August 1, 2011, saying the initial probe had shown that the heads of the group had learned skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the ETIM in Pakistan before entering Xinjiang to organise terrorist activities. The statement added that the attackers adhered to extremist religious ideology and advocated jehad. The Kashgar city government’s claim was reportedly made on the basis of a confession by one of the militants captured alive.
The exceptional Chinese allegations came as a major blow to the much-proclaimed all-weather Sino-Pak friendship, putting enormous pressure on Islamabad to act against the rebels before it is too late.
The anger shown by China was described by diplomatic circles in Islamabad as a clear indication of the growing Chinese impatience with Pakistan’s inability to control radical groups operating within its borders.
The Pakistan government, on its part, was quick to extend all possible cooperation to China against the ETIM. ‘Terrorists, extremists and separatists in Xinjiang constitute an evil force,’ said an August 1, 2011 statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry after Chinese President Hu Jintao rang President Asif Zardari and expressed concern over the growing terror activities of the ETIM network in Pakistan.
Subsequently, there were three high-profile visits from Pakistan to China in August 2011; the first one by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar; the second by President Asif Ali Zardari and the third one by the ISI Chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha. The Pakistani visits were reciprocated by the September 28 visit by the Chinese Vice Premier Meng Jianzhu and Chinese Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu.
These visits have apparently redressed the Chinese concerns to a great extent, as indicated by their changed stance about those involved in the July 2011 Kashgar terrorist attacks.