In a rare move, Pakistan has urged China to ease restrictions on Uighur Muslims amid reports of up to a million of the minority community members being detained in the country's far-west Xinjiang region, according to a media report Friday.
The issue of the restrictions on the Uighurs figured in a meeting, held here this week, between Pakistan's Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri and Chinese Ambassador Yao Xing, Dawn newspaper reported.
Breaking the past tradition of keeping silent on the issues related to Chinese Muslims, Qadri spoke about those Muslims facing numerous restrictions in China's Xinjiang province and demanded easing the restrictions , the report said.
Around one million minority Uighurs Muslims have reportedly been sent into detention and indoctrination centres in Xinjing region during a surveillance and security campaign run by the Chinese government.
Qadri told the Chinese envoy that "the placement of restrictions increases the chances of an extremist viewpoint growing in reaction."
The two also discussed talks between religious scholars belonging to Xinjiang and Pakistan.
The Chinese envoy said that there were 20 million Muslims living in China who enjoyed complete freedom to practice their faith.
"The Chinese government is the bearer of Sufi and moderate thought and resolves to sort the differences between various religious groups," said the ambassador.
The Chinese ambassador also provided assurances to facilitate the visit of a Pakistani religious delegation to the Xinjiang province.
"Exchange of viewpoints between religious scholars of both countries is vital for better interfaith relations," Yao said.
"Pakistan is an important representative of the Muslim world and we want to further strengthen Pakistan-China relations on an Islamic level," he said, adding that they will take the Muslim community living in China into confidence for achieving the same.
He expressed China's interest in working with Pakistan to develop an educational curriculum for the Muslim community.
He also invited Qadri for a visit to China which the Minister accepted.
Meanwhile, according to a report in The Nation newspaper, a UN panel has recently put an estimate that China has detained as many as one million Uighurs in internment camps and re-education programmes.
The Chinese Muslim community has resisted coercive "re-education" efforts by the authorities, which have progressively restricted religious minorities from observing the basic articles of their faith.
This includes programmes that focus on psychological indoctrination. There have been reports of water boarding and other forms of torture as well. The detained also include over 50 wives of Pakistanis, the report said.
Early this year, the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Legislative Assembly through a unanimous resolution urged the federal government to take urgent steps for the release of over 50 Chinese wives of Pakistani men detained in the Xinjiang province.
The Pakistanis, most of them doing import and export businesses between Pakistan and China, are married to Chinese Muslim women. The Chinese police had arrested them last year and earlier.