China calls on Zardari to take action against rebels

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The Independent Online

China has called on Islamabad to take action against a separatist militant group it claims is planning to launch attacks from inside Pakistani territory to coincide with the 60th anniversary celebrations of the communist revolution, a prominent politician has told The Independent. In two separate meetings over recent months, senior Chinese officials warned President Asif Ali Zardari's government that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Etim), a separatist group originally from Xinjiang province, was plotting attacks from inside Pakistan's wild tribal areas.

Chinese officials revealed details of the meetings to Mushahid Hussain, an ally of the former Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, and the most visible supporter of Islamabad's alliance with Beijing, during a visit to central Asia. "They told me that the Etim has its military headquarters in [the tribal areas] and is planning to attack China on the 60th anniversary celebration of the communist revolution in October," said Mr Hussain.

He said that Meng Jianzhu, China's Minister for Public Security, flew from Beijing to Shanghai to discuss the threat with Mr Zardari during his visit to China in late February. "President Zardari was not there to meet with the Chinese leadership," said Mr Hussain. "The minister met with him for 90 minutes to discuss this issue."

More recently, Beijing dispatched a special envoy to Islamabad in March to discuss the alleged threat posed by the Etim, Mr Hussain added.

The Etim and Chinese militants have long maintained a low-profile presence in Pakistan's tribal areas. Both Washington and Beijing have listed Etim as a terrorist group and suspect it of links with al-Qa'ida. The Pakistani army killed Hasan Mahsoum, the group's leader and founder, in Pakistan in 2003.

A spokesman for Mr Zardari denied knowledge of the meetings between the President and Chinese officials.

"We know that China is extremely concerned about terrorism in the region, but we are unaware of any such meeting having taken place," the spokesman said.