BEIJING: Pakistan has eliminated all members of the Uighur militant group the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) from its territory, but must remain vigilant to ensure they don’t return, the country’s defense minister said in Beijing yesterday. China blames ETIM for carrying out attacks in its far western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, although many foreign experts doubt the group’s existence in a cohesive group.
China, Pakistan’s only major ally in the region, has long urged Islamabad to weed out what it says are militants from Xinjiang, who are holed up in a lawless tribal belt, home to a lethal mix of militant groups, including the Taliban and al Qaeda. “We believe they’re all eliminated,” Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters on the sidelines of a security forum. “I think there (were) a small number in tribal areas, they’re all gone or eliminated. There are no more there.”
It is just as much in Pakistan’s interests as China’s to fight Uighur militants, Asif said, denying there was any difference of opinion between Beijing and Islamabad on Pakistan’s efforts to tackle the problem. “The fight against ETIM is our own fight.
It’s not only China’s fight. It’s a joint fight against ETIM, between Pakistan and China, so there is absolutely no difference of opinion on the elimination of ETIM from our tribal areas,” he added “We have to be vigilant for a long time that this menace, this infection, does not return.”Some Xinjiang government officials have said they believe Pakistan is not doing enough to prevent Uighurs from travelling there to become radicalized. – Reuters