At the outset, please allow me to eulogize the remarkable prowess and creativity that you show in every step of the way and every decision you take in administering a nation of 1.4 billion people. The pace with which you helped people belonging to the aggrieved segment of the society and lifted more than 800 million of them out of poverty since the start of your economic reform is, as the World Bank President puts it, a “great story in human history”. The courageous stances you have taken so far vis a vis resolution of problems of the underdeveloped and developing world merit due accolade. This has cemented a mutually beneficial relationship between you and Pakistan that is, “higher than the mountains, deeper than the sea, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey”.
While there are lessons my country can learn from your experience, there is something you can also learn from my country’s experience. The subject I am about to pen down is rather a sensitive one which has always received fierce criticism from certain conservative quarters.
For too long, China has been dubbed as a country with no room for dissenters – a country that follows a form of government that doesn’t find place in the 21st century. For too long, some media outlets dominated by the West twisted and turned information to meet their cynical desires. This was part of the war waged by the guardians of the cyberspace who shaped and influenced public opinion according to the stories they headline or withhold. It obviously didn’t work and when they got too frustrated and too scared from the Chinese successes, they targeted to poison a segment of the Chinese society with poison that has already reduced many bustling cities in Pakistan once full of life, to rubbles. And that is the Arabization of Muslim community of a society. This is a part of how the Salafi-Wahabi indoctrination works and is a stepping stone to further radicalization and extremism in a society. The increased influx of Wahhabi-Salafi Islam into the Uyghur regions and attempts of giving ‘Xin Jiang independence movement’ a religious color are clear indicators. It almost seems to be a calculated move by certain powers to set the stage for an Islamist rebellion to bleed China in her far west.
We have had a fair share of importation of the Salafi-Wahabi and religious conservatism from abroad which destroyed vast swathes of our lands, destroyed our cultural and nationalistic identities. With the destruction of these identities, came the clarion call for Jihad, takfirism, religious extremism and intolerance. And to combat it, we made a mistake, repercussions for which are being paid even to this day. We waited for goddamn too long and landed our country in terrorism hell. We waited throughout the 80s when the Madrassahs (religious schools) were set up by Saudi money and the Wahhabism began to be preached in Pakistan. We waited throughout the 90s when those Madaris began churning out Jihadis fighting with American weapons in Afghanistan. We waited throughout the 2000s as we placed our bets on the US leaving Afghanistan soon even as the Taliban turned their guns on us. And so, it took the Taliban reaching our capital that we began fighting them back. And even now, when we have eliminated the jihadis, their mindset and the conservative thinking that spawned them will take generations to kill off. I will be an old man and possibly dead before Pakistan recovers from this madness of Jihadi terror. I do not want China to wait this long. I don’t want you to wait decades as Uyghur people slowly turn into ultraconservative Wahhabis, raise their children ultra conservative as an expression of their strong faith and then when this conservatism inevitably clashes with the modernity and progressiveness of China, your tanks roll into the ruins of Urumqi. The Uyghur Muslims must be told that ‘You are Chinese first, citizens of a nation which embodies a civilization that goes back 2000 years. That is your identity.’
One of the core principles of counter terrorism is: “If you are at a point where your agencies have to actually find terrorists and uncover plots, you have already lost half the battle.” You have to prevent the radicalization and the embryo of terror from forming in the first place. This involves a complex interplay policy that span across encouraging economic growth, grass roots campaigns for education and social harmony, promoting secular values, immigration control, control of internet spaces and what values are promoted by the government and what freedoms and civil rights are held sacred and which aren’t. All of these measures will combine to ensure that the nucleus of terrorism never forms in your country in the first place.
As a Pakistani, I would urge you to never let these Salafi-Wahhabi beliefs gain even the smallest foothold on your land. In ancient times, the Chinese emperors built the Great Wall to stave off barbarians. In the modern age, they built the Great Firewall to prevent foreign governments from influencing and swaying Chinese public opinions with their own propaganda. It’s time to make another wall that cuts off Xinjiang from these nefarious planners in the Gulf and West and their goal to make Xinjiang another Afghanistan and Syria through decades of planning and subversion. This is coming from a Pakistani because if I could reverse the clock and go back in time, I would probably be carrying out the same measures in my country. But of course, I can’t. We must deal with the lot life has given us. But this does not have to be China’s destiny.