Wikileaks' recently released Guantanamo Bay files suggest that Uighur separatists waging a low-intensity war against China obtained training and logistical support in Pakistan, the Times of India reports.
An ethnic Uigur woman on crutches protests in front of a line of paramilitary police in Urumqi, in China's farwest Xinjiang region. (PETER PARKS- AFP/Getty Images).
If substantiated and expanded to implicate the Pakistani military establishment or the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the revelations could drive a wedge between Pakistan and its most crucial ally, as it is the threat of "losing" Pakistan to China altogether that prevents the US from taking a harder stance in Islamabad.
Notably, China--which has insisted more vociferously, even, than the US that Pakistan is a hapless victim of terrorism rather than an active supporter of terrorist groups--was virtually the only world power to defend Pakistan against charges of duplicity and/or incompetence following the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Files of 22 Uighur detainees at Gitmo, many of whom were held in Pakistan, speak of the ease with which they found their way to extremists mosques in Pakistan and their passage to Afghanistan. They vent their ire against Chinese rule and claim the rules for Uighurs were discriminatory.
Along with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Chinese rebels hoped to form a larger jihadi front that would be allied with the al-Qaida as well. The rebels saw Beijing as a foreign and un-Islamic implant with one detainee Ahmad Yuqub complaining that Chinese rulers did not permit farmers to plant crops of their choice.
While Yaqub was reportedly a leading member of the East Turkestan Movement, he was believed to have worked with Osama and fought the coalition forces at Tora Bora.
Beijing is concerned about the Islamic insurgency in east Turkistan, but it banks on Pakistan cracking down on Uighurs. China's state-controlled political and administrative system allows it to cut off areas where rebellion breaks out and deal with insurgents without having to bother about the prying eyes of the world media.
But as the linkages that emerge from the Gitmo files show, there are several ports of call for Uighurs in Pakistan and access to arms training is not so difficult. Groups of Uighurs have frequently travelled to and from Pakistan to countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan.
Presumably, Pakistan tells China that they have no idea any Uighurs are there, right?