Almost all members of the Uighur militant group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), have been eliminated from Pakistan, President Mamnoon Hussain said on Wednesday during a visit to Beijing.
China blames violent unrest in its far western region of Xinjiang on separatist groups like ETIM, which it says wants to set up an independent state called East Turkestan and have bases in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many foreign experts, however, have questioned whether ETIM exists as the coherent group China claims it is.
Meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People, President Mamnoon said the massive military operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb, in North Waziristan Agency “has been successful in eradicating terrorism from our country”.
“It has also been very helpful in eliminating the ETIM element from our country and I think almost all the ETIM people in our country have been eliminated. Maybe, if they are there, there should be very few,” Mamnoon said. He added that China and Pakistan were ‘iron brothers’ and always helped each other ‘with great zeal’.
According to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi, President Mamnoon reiterated Pakistan’s desire to have peaceful relations with its neighbours, including India, and told the Chinese leader that Pakistan has always been willing to hold dialogue with India for resolution of all outstanding issues. He also said that Pakistan valued China’s efforts in promoting intra-Afghan dialogue for sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
President Mamnoon is in China to attend a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Asia. He said Pakistan recognised the sufferings and sacrifices of the Chinese people in the Anti-Fascist War. He further said that the Sino-Pak friendship enjoyed across-the-board political, institutional and popular support in both countries.
President Mamnoon expressed satisfaction over the progress of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and added that the project would usher in peace and prosperity not only for Pakistan, but also for the entire region. He said Pakistan had taken special measures to provide security to Chinese personnel working on the CPEC project.
President Xi said his country attaches high priority to its strategic partnership with Pakistan and will always support it on all international and regional issues. “China values its friendship with Pakistan and considers it a high priority in its foreign policy,” he added.
“China will unswervingly support Pakistan’s efforts in safeguarding its national security,” Xi said, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. President Xi assured his Pakistani counterpart that he had the firm resolve that the Chinese government and companies would keep their maximum focus on the ongoing projects in Pakistan and would ensure their timely completion.
President Mamnoon also attended a banquet dinner hosted by his Chinese counterpart in honour of the world leaders visiting China to attend the commemoration of 70th anniversary of end of Second World War. As many as 30 heads of state attended the banquet at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.
Separately, President Mamnoon said Pakistan and China would remain ‘eternal and irreplaceable’ friends as their friendship was playing a pivotal role in pursuing the common objectives of peace and development in the region. Addressing a luncheon jointly hosted by the China International Culture Communication Centre and China-Pakistan Friendship Association, he said Pakistan was committed to ensuring continuity in Pakistan-China friendship from generation to generation.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2015.