UN blacklists Masood Azhar

Jaish-e- Mohammed’s chief Masood Azhar has been listed as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee. Why did China back the listing of Azhar?

Background 

Masood Azhar founded Jaish-e-Mohammed after he was released by India in 1999. He was one among the three men set free by the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in exchange for 185 hijacked crew and passengers of an Indian Airlines plane flown to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.  

JeM was accused of an attack on India’s parliament in Delhi in December 2001. Pakistan officially banned the terrorist group soon after the attack on the Indian parliament. In January 2016, India accused Jem of an attack on an airbase near the Pakistani border, which left three members of security forces dead. Noor Mohammed Tantray, commanded of JeM was killed by Indian forces in 2017.

India frequently requested Pakistan to extradite Azhar but this was dismissed on the basis of lack of evidence. New Delhi had requested United Nation to list him as a global terrorist which was blocked by China in the last 10 years. 

Analysis

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) listed Jaish-e-Mohammed in the sanction list on 17 October 2001 for its association with Al Qaida, Usama bin Laden or Taliban. India repeatedly requested the inclusion of Masood in the sanction list but on China’s objections, it could not be. After the attack on CRPF convoy on 14 February, 2019 at Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir which left 40 paramilitary CRPF personnel dead, France, UK and US supported India’s contention and moved the proposal to put Masood as an individual in the sanction list.  China removed its hold on the proposal and he was listed on 01 May 2019. 

The UN Security Council Committee statement states as follows “On 1 May 2019, the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities approved the addition of the entry specified below to its ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 2368 (2017) and adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations."

PM Modi said, "In our fight against terror, the world stood with us". He said, "This is not just Modi's success, this is the entire nation's success" and "today India has proven its power in the entire world and that is the power of 1300 million people of this country."

China had been blocking Azhar’s listing despite a strong push by the US, UK and France. It had put a “technical hold” on the proposal four times, the latest being in March. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo had remarked that the “world cannot afford China’s shameful hypocrisy toward Muslims. On one hand, China abuses more than a million Muslims at home, but on the other, it protects violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the UN.” Reacting to the present development, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, "After careful study of the revised materials and taking into consideration the opinions of relevant parties concerned, China does not have an objection to the listing proposal”. He added that China will continue to support Pakistan’s effort to combat terrorism and extremist forces. 

Counterpoint

The immediate impact of the listing would subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo. Assets freeze means that all states are required to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities. By virtue of the arms embargo, all nations are required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer from their territories or by their nationals outside their territories of arms and related material of all types to designated individuals and entities. However, this resolution urges the member states to implement these sanctions and assist the states in investigation and criminal proceedings (Paragraph 12 of the UNSCR 2368 (2017)).

Assessment

Our assessment is that Azhar’s influence was covertly used by Pakistan and China to strengthen the Taliban who are averse to Indian interests in Afghanistan as well as Kashmir. It can be noted that President Asif Ali Zardari and Army head Pervez Musharraf have admitted that terrorist outfits were ‘deliberately created and nurtured by past governments’

We feel that this move is a diplomatic success for India. It can be noted that Azhar’s listing is not because of his involvement in terrorism in Kashmir but because of his association and links with Al Qaida. We feel that the US has been actively building pressure on Pakistan to ensure an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

With this move, all members of the United Nations are required to freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets provided to Masood. It can be noted that Masood has previously made trips to Saudi and the United Kingdom. He visited India with a Portuguese passport in 1994 under the name of Vali Adam Issa.  We feel that China’s abandoning of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Masood is not likely to substantially change its equation with Pakistan. 

 

 

This article was co-authored by Sri Upendra Baghel, IPS. He served as the Head of the Policy Advisory Unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) and has also been an investigator for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) (2000-2015).

 

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