Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

UN blacklists founder of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed

In February, China blocked a request to impose an arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze on Masood Azhar

Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan's militant Jaish-e-Mohammad party, attends a pro-Taliban conference organised by the Afghan Defence Council in Islamabad, Pakistan August 26, 2001. REUTERS
Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan's militant Jaish-e-Mohammad party, attends a pro-Taliban conference organised by the Afghan Defence Council in Islamabad, Pakistan August 26, 2001. REUTERS

A UN Security Council committee blacklisted the head of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed on Wednesday after China dropped its objection, ending a long diplomatic impasse.

Western powers have for many years been trying to sanction its leader, Masood Azhar, whose group has carried out several high-profile attacks in India.

But Pakistan's ally China has repeatedly opposed their efforts.

The group claimed responsibility for a February suicide bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir, an attack that brought the two nuclear-armed neighbours to the brink of war.

Azhar’s freedom in Pakistan has been a sore point in the relationship between western countries and Islamabad.

It has led to repeated accusations by India that Pakistan uses and harbours militant groups to further its foreign policy. Pakistan denies the claims.

The US, Britain and France initially asked the UN Security Council’s ISIS and Al Qaeda sanctions committee to subject Jaish-e-Mohammed's founder to an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze in February.

But the move by the 15-member committee, which operates by consensus, was blocked by China, which had also prevented the sanctions committee from imposing sanctions on Azhar in 2016 and 2017. China had said it wanted more time to study the February request.

The three countries then stepped up their push to blacklist Azhar in late March by proposing a resolution that would need nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the US, Britain or France to pass.

After further negotiations, they submitted a new request to the committee on Sunday to sanction Azhar, which was agreed to on Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing had no objections to Azhar’s listing after studying revised proposals at the UN and the issue was now “appropriately resolved".

“I would like to emphasise that Pakistan has made enormous contributions to the fight against terrorism, which should be fully affirmed by the international community," Mr Geng said.

"China will continue to firmly support Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism and extremist forces."

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Islamabad agreed to the move after references to a February attack in the Indian city of Pulwama were removed.

“We’re going to enforce this decision forthwith,” Mr Faisal said in Islamabad, referring to the travel ban and asset freezes.

India’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the designation of Azhar as “a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers".

The group, which is mainly anti-India, also forged ties with Al Qaeda and was blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2001.

In December 2001 the group’s fighters, along with members of Pakistan militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked India’s Parliament, which almost led to a fourth war between the two countries.

The February attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir prompted India to carry out an aerial bombing mission inside Pakistan, the first such move since a 1971 war.

Pakistan carried out its own aerial bombardment the following day, and the two countries even fought a brief dogfight over Kashmiri skies.

Tensions began to ease when Islamabad, amid pressure from global powers, returned an Indian pilot shot down over Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Pakistan has been on a charm offensive in recent months to avoid being blacklisted by a global financial body, the Financial Action Task Force, which monitors money laundering and financing of terrorism.

Islamabad has vowed to crack down on anti-India militants and other outfits operating on its soil.

It has shut down some madrassas linked to violent groups and as part of the crackdown, also detained relatives of Azhar in “protective custody”.

Updated: May 2, 2019 12:15 AM