ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is urging the world to put pressure on Myanmar, where renewed violence has forced out tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif says the Rohingyas’ plight is “a challenge to the conscience” of the world and that Pakistan was committed to providing humanitarian aid to them.
The ministry issued a statement containing his opening remarks at a conference of Pakistani diplomats on Thursday.
Political parties and clerics have organized rallies across Pakistan to express their solidarity with Rohingyas and to condemn Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the reported massacres of Rohingyas. Her government has counted 400 deaths and says most were terrorists.
Desperate Rohingya have fled Rakhine state since August 25 in droves, trudging through mud-slaked hills and paddy fields in a human tide that has shocked the international community.
Nearly 164,000 Rohingya have so far made it to Bangladesh, fleeing burning villages and alleged atrocities by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs.
It is the latest violent turn in the torrid history of the stateless minority, who are denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and given the caustic label of illegal ‘Bengali’ immigrants.
Suu Kyi, feted for her years of peaceful opposition to Myanmar’s junta rulers, has been urged to speak up for the Rohingya, with Muslim nations and the UN leading condemnation of her government.
But the 72-year-old has not bent to pressure, in a country where the Rohingya question has overshadowed Myanmar’s emergence from full military rule.
Rights groups who once held Suu Kyi aloft as a beacon of freedom now accuse her of being at best unmoved by their plight, and at worst, complicit in them being driven out of Myanmar.
“By not speaking out against these abuses, she is increasingly losing her moral and political credibility,” said James Gomez, of Amnesty International, which campaigned tirelessly for her release from house arrest.
It is a far cry from 2012 when then US president Barack Obama lionised the Nobel Peace Prize winner, known as The Lady, from the garden of her Yangon villa as “an icon of democracy who has inspired so many people”.
This week Malala Yousafzai aimed a tweet at her fellow Nobel laureate for staying silent on the “tragic and shameful treatment” of the Rohingya, while 365,000 people have signed a petition calling for Suu Kyi’s Nobel to be rescinded.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went even further, accusing her government of presiding over a “genocide”.