By Carole Landry | AFP
UNITED NATIONS, US, 1 May 2019
The United Nations on Wednesday added Masood Azhar, the leader of a Pakistan-based Islamist group, to its list of global terrorists after China lifted its objections to the move.
The UN sanctions committee on the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda announced in a press release the designation of Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), over his ties to Al-Qaeda.
JeM has claimed responsibility for the 14 February attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops and stoked tensions between India and Pakistan.
Considered the founder of JeM, Azhar was hit by an international assets freeze, a ban on global travel and an arms embargo. JeM itself has been on the UN terror list since 2001.
China had blocked three previous attempts at the sanctions committee to blacklist Azhar and put a technical hold on a fourth request from Britain, France and the United States in March.
UN diplomats said the request was again submitted to the committee last week and that China had not opposed the move to blacklist Azhar by the Wednesday deadline. Any decision to add individuals or groups to the UN terror list is taken by consensus in the committee.
India applauded the move which came after its air force in February carried out air strikes on a JeM militant camp inside Pakistan.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is campaigning for re-election, told a rally on Wednesday that the decision was “late, but it’s the right thing”, and described it as a “success of India’s long-term fight against terrorism”.
Pakistan stressed that the designation of Azhar had nothing to do with the Pulwama attack in February. Islamabad has denied any involvement in the suicide bombing, one of the deadliest attacks on Indian security forces.
Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal told reporters in Islamabad that it would be “false and baseless” for India to claim that the sanctions on Azhar were a victory.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since the February attack in Kashmir that prompted tit-for-tat air raids, fueling fears of an all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed countries.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over it.
The decision to blacklist Azhar came after Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last week on the sidelines of a summit of the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing.
France, which slapped unilateral sanctions on Azhar in March, also welcomed the decision and stressed it had pushed for many years for the JeM leader to be put on the list.
In March, the United States had ratcheted up pressure on China by putting forward a draft Security Council resolution to blacklist Azhar — a move that would have forced Beijing to use its veto to block the measure.
“After 10 years, China has done the right thing,” a US administration official said. Beijing seems to have “understood that it was increasingly important that its actions on the international stage on terrorism match its rhetoric.”
Azhar is linked to terrorism for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities” carried out by JeM, according to the sanctions committee.
Azhar founded JeM after he was released from prison in India in 1999 in exchange for 155 hostages held on an Indian Airlines flight that had been hijacked to Kandahar.