ISLAMABAD - A splinter group of TTP has warned Beijing against persecuting Muslim population in its far-western province of Xinjiang otherwise the militant outfit would target “the centres of Chinese economic interests” in ways beyond the imagination of the Chinese government.

Last week, on Friday, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul Ahrar (TTPJA) released the 9th issue of its official magazine Ihya-i-Khilafat that carried an article by Ehsanullah Ehsan, a key commander and official spokesperson, under the title of “Hidden motives behind the Chinese investment in Pakistan”.

The article has highlighted the condition of Muslims, especially Uighurs (also pronounced as Uyghur) in the Xinjiang province of China. “The government has recently intensified a religious crackdown on the Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. Men and women are being punished for following the basics of Islam like sporting beards or covering their faces respectively. Above all, these crimes are being touted as law”, writes Ehsan.

According to TTPJA, Pakistan is not only silent on the issue of the persecution of Chinese Muslims but it also enjoys the support of Beijing to carry out military operations against the Islamic insurgents hiding in the tribal areas of the country. Ehsanullah Ehsan wrote that taking action against the Islamic insurgents hiding in the tribal areas of the country was one of the agendas during the supposed visit of Xi Jinping, President of China, to Islamabad which was postponed due to political rallies in Islamabad.

“He had to assure Pakistan of China’s full support during the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan especially to target the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)’s members hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan”, he wrote. According to the article, the media is highlighting the supposed 134 billion dollar investment of China in Pakistan but no one is highlighting the other side of the story.

ETIM, also known as Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), is an Islamic separatist outfit founded by Uyghur militants. Currently the members of ETIM have been merged with Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Pakistani Taliban hiding in the tribal belt. The main aim of the militant outfit is the independence of East Turkestan from China. The group is responsible for a number of attacks in China especially in Xinjiang. ETIM had also taken responsibility for October 2013 suicide attack in Tiananmen Square in Beijing that killed five people and left another 38 injured.

“Under these circumstances when China is involved in the genocide of Muslims we warn Beijing to stop killing Uighurs. If you do not change your anti-Muslim policies, the time is not far when mujahedeen would target you”, said Ehsan. “Don’t you see the disintegration of Russia and the economic crises in Pakistan, Britain and the US. Remember that we will attack the centers of your economic interests in a way that you would have never thought of it,” he added.

Pakistani militants have long history of rivalry with Chinese citizens living in Pakistan and one of the basic reasons is the issue of Xinxiang’s Muslim minority. On October 10, 2004 two Chinese engineers working at the Gomal Zam Dam were kidnapped along with their driver and a bodyguard. One of the engineers was freed and the other was killed during a rescue operation carried by the Pakistani security forces.

In September 2008 two Chinese engineers and their Pakistani colleagues were kidnapped in Swat valley after they were returning from repairing a telecommunications tower. Mullah Fazlullah-led militants had taken responsibility for the kidnapping. Later on, one of them escaped from the custody of the militants while the other was released under a ‘deal’. Earlier in May, a Chinese tourist travelling from Lahore to Balochistan via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was kidnapped from Dera Ismail Khan reportedly by South Waziristan based militants. So far, the tourist has not been traced.

There is also hatred amongst the militants for Chinese people after the latter reportedly backed General Musharraf in his stand against Lal Masjid. The Lal Masjid students had kidnapped Chinese citizens running a massage center in Islamabad (that they accused of being a brothel).