The citizens of any given country always want to believe they are in the right and that their country will always speak up against oppression and suffering. But, a handful of observations make it abundantly clear that the vast majority, if not all, of countries care not about morality or justice, but about money and their own self-interest.
The first, but certainly not the only, obvious example is Pakistan. One of the most vocal countries against the illegal occupation of Palestine and Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people, Pakistan made its people very proud when it declared that the only way it would ever consider normalizing relations with Israel is if Palestine was given justice.
This was an undeniably morally righteous move by Pakistan, choosing to stand next to Palestine against Israeli injustices and atrocities.
However, it leads to a major question: Where is this staunch brotherhood when it comes to the Uighur crisis in China?
There are countless reports implicating China as the oppressor when it comes to the conflict in Xinjiang. The growing superpower has been alleged numerous times to be causing a cultural genocide, tearing down mosques, arresting individuals for wearing Islamic attire and entrapping reportedly over a million Uighurs in “re-education camps”. Yet, in late 2019, when asked to condemn or raise her voice against China for doing this by journalist Mehdi Hasan, Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari refused to do so. PM Imran Khan himself hasn’t said anything about it.
The reason behind this reticence isn’t really hard to figure out. China is one of Pakistan’s closest and most powerful allies and responsible for the goldmine that is CPEC. Cold, hard realities of international relations mean that Pakistan can never speak up against China – and that is the point. The nature of international relations means that countries, if forced to, prioritize their self-interest and survival over all else, including morality – that comes only when it’s convenient.
Of course, Pakistan is hardly the only country involved in this.
The same can be said of the United States of America. Supremely vocal against human rights abuses, the USA has led numerous invasions in the Middle-East against countries it accused of killing their own people. But, the USA rarely, if ever, speaks up against the genocide in Palestine at the hands of its ally Israel or the brutal human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. Why? Because the USA prioritizes having a geostrategically invaluable ally in the Middle-East in the case of Israel, and prioritizes its oil in the case of Saudi Arabia. Those two things are far more important to the USA than vague ideas such as morality and justice.
Similar instances can be observed in practically every country of the world, of course. The United States’s policies on Saudi Arabia are matched by the majority of its European allies – who also need Saudi Arabia while Pakistan’s policies towards China are matched by the majority of the Muslim world – who need China.
It is true, of course, that, on the rare occasion, a spark of hope does appear. Recently, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi took a stand against Saudi Arabia and warned that, if the oil-rich country did not adopt a position of “leadership” with regards to the liberation of Kashmir, Pakistan would consider calling “a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris”. This was a brave move motivated by justice and not money or self-interest.
Yet, reality soon struck. Immediately, afterwards, the Saudis ended their loan and oil supply to Pakistan, reminding Pakistan of the cost of standing by what’s right. Shortly thereafter, Pakistan realized its mistake, and Army Chief Qamar Bajwa had to go to Saudi Arabia to somehow win back the Saudis despite Qureshi’s reproach.
These incidents make one thing abundantly clear – countries care most about getting enough money to survive and take care of themselves; if that comes at the cost of justice, then so be it.
Perhaps the only way to bring about justice comes not from governments but from the people. In the event that the Pakistani people spoke up against China’s treatment of the Uighurs and came out in protest in the streets, willing to accept the economic strife caused by the alienation of China, perhaps then Pakistan would choose justice over cynical self-interest.