UN designates JeM chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist

In a huge diplomatic win for India, the United Nations on Wednesday designated Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist after China lifted its hold on a proposal to blacklist him under the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee.

“Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in @UN Sanctions list. Grateful to all for their support,” India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin tweeted. When asked whether China has lifted the hold, Akbaruddin told PTI that “yes, done.”

China removed its hold on the proposal, which was moved by France, UK and the US in the Security Council’s 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in February just days after the Pulwama attack, which left 40 paramilitary CRPF men dead. The JeM had claimed the responsibility for the attack.

Masood Azhar, 50, formed the JeM in 2000. He was branded the brain behind various suicide strikes in India and known to have fine tuned tactics which included survey of potential targets before carrying out the attack.

Azhar’s academy in Balakot faced a blitzkrieg from Indian Air Force jets on 26 February, 2019 after the Pulwama attack.

After the release of Azhar by India on December 31, 1999, in exchange for passengers of a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999, Azhar remained active in Pakistan.

“Despite earning a reputation of being a manufacturer of suicide attackers, Azhar was not a hard nut to crack when he was in the custody of Indian forces,” the PTI quoted officials as having said.

Azhar was arrested in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district in February 1994 after he had entered into India on a Portuguese passport through Bangladesh. It was a chance arrest. He along with Sajjad Afghani were travelling in an auto when it was stopped by Army men at Khanabal.  “Both ran from the autorickshaw prompting the soldiers to nab them. The Army men were happy to find Sajjad Afghani and had a little knowledge about the other,” former Director General of Sikkim Police Avinash Mohananey, who questioned Azhar many times during his two-decade tenure in the Intelligence Bureau, told PTI.

The son of a retired school headmaster from Bhawalpur in Pakistan, Azhar always felt his custody in India was going to be short-lived and that attempts would be made for his release.

Attempts were indeed made – the first one within 10 months of his arrest when some foreigners were kidnapped from Delhi and the captors demanded his release. The plot failed when the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi Police managed to get the hostages freed from captivity in Sahranpur. During that raid in Saharanpur, police arrested another militant, Omar Sheikh, who was eventually released along with Azhar in exchange for the passengers of the 1999 hijacked flight IC 814.

A tunnel was dug in Kot Balwal jail in 1999 for his escape but Azhar could not move out. However, in the process, Sajjad Afghani was killed.

Finally, he was released by the BJP-led NDA government in 1999, along with Omar Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar in exchange of the passengers of the hijacked flight IC-814.

The Kathmandu-New Delhi plane was hijacked and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan by Azhar’s men. After the negotiations with hijackers failed, the government succumbed to their demands and the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh took the trio to Kandahar in a special plane to ensure the safe release of passengers of the hijacked plane.

The JeM announced its arrival in the Kashmir in 2000 by carrying out a suicide car bombing attack at the gate of Badamibagh cantonment in Srinagar, the headquarters of the Army’s 15 Corps. Two armymen were killed in the attack.

Later, it was involved in the attack on Parliament, the Pathankot air force base, Army camps in Jammu and Uri, and the latest suicide attack on CRPF in Pulwama.

US hails move, seeks sustained actions from Pakistan

The US has welcomed the designation of JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN and sought “sustained actions” from Pakistan against terrorism, consistent with its international obligations.

A spokesperson for the US Mission in UN told PTI, “The US welcomes the addition of Masood Azhar to the UN 1267 ISIL and al-Qaida Sanctions list, which requires all UN member states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against Azhar.”

“We expect all countries to uphold these obligations,” the spokesperson said, noting that the JeM is a United Nations-designated terrorist group, and Azhar, as the founder and leader of JEM, clearly met the criteria for designation by the world body.”

“We appreciate Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s stated commitment that Pakistan, for the sake of its own future, will not allow the operation of militant and terrorist groups from its territory,” the spokesperson said.

“We are encouraged by the initial steps taken by the Government of Pakistan…We look forward to further and sustained actions from Pakistan as outlined in its National Action Plan, and consistent with its international obligations,” the spokesperson said.

Step to show resolve against terror: MEA 

Ministry of External Affairs  on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the UN Security Councils 1267 Sanctions Committee to declare the JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, saying it was a “step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers”.

The MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the action is “in accordance with India’s position and in line with the information that India has shared with the members of the Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist activities” of Azhar and the JeM.

“The 1267 Sanctions Committee’s decision to designate the JeM leader, Masood Azhar, as an UN-proscribed terrorist is a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers,” Kumar said.

“We welcome the decision. This is in accordance with India’s position and in line with the information that India has shared with the members of the Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist activities of Masood Azhar and the JeM,” he said.

The spokesperson said India will continue with its efforts through international forums “to ensure that terrorist organizations and their leaders who cause harm to our citizens are brought to justice.”

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.