Masood Azhar Listed by UNSC Panel as Global Terrorist, Subject to Sanctions

As per UNSC resolutions, Azhar will now be subject to having his assets frozen, an arms embargo and a travel ban.

New Delhi: With China not raising any objections, United Nations Security Council’s 1267 sanctions sub-committee approved the listing Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist after the deadline for the ‘silent period’ ended on Wednesday.

Speaking at an election rally in Jaipur, Indian Prime Minister called it as a “big victory”.

“From now on, whenever the country faces danger of any kind from anybody, we will enter their homes and eliminate them. If they fire bullets at us, we will fire bombs at them,” he said.

He claimed that this was due to the “world listening to India over the last few years”. “We cannot be ignored anymore. And I would like to say openly that this is just the start. Just wait and see what happens next,” added Modi.

Also read: No April 23 Deadline, but Moving to Resolve Masood Azhar Listing at UNSC: China

The official Indian response from the ministry of external affairs welcomed the listing and described it as a “step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers”.

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

India’s permanent representative to UN Syed Akbaruddin said that it was a “significant outcome for us because we have been at it for several years”. Besides thanking the US,UK and France by name, he also acknowledged the Indonesian chair of the sanctions committee for being “instrumental in ensuring that the process went smoothly and in line with our agreed understanding”.

As per UNSC resolutions, Azhar will now be subject to having his assets frozen, an arms embargo and a travel ban.

However, it may not mean much operationally as JeM is already subject to sanctions since its listing. JeM has been listed as terrorist organisation by UN since 2001. Therefore, Azhar is not likely to have operated a bank account or bought arms in his own name over the years. As for the travel ban, he is currently stated to be suffering from ailments and is said to be confined to his home.

This has not stopped the JeM chief from propagating violence in Kashmir against the Indian state and its security personnel, as was the main gist of India’s case against Azhar to UNSC members.

The proposal for listing of Azhar had been spearheaded by the US, UK and France after JeM took responsibility for the terror bomb attack that killed more than 40 security personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir on February 14.

China had initially put a technical hold on the listing on March 13. This was the fourth time that China has put a hold on a proposal to list Masood Azhar with the 1267 Sanctions Committee since the original proposal was initiated in 2009

After the hold, the three western countries had threatened to bring a resolution in the UNSC on blacklisting Azhar, which would have publicly isolated China.

According to sources, ‘silent procedure’ had been adopted to pass the listing. This meant that any UNSC member was given time to raise an objection till 9 a.m. New York Time on May 1.

Since no country submitted an objection by the deadline, the listing was approved by the committee at the end of the ‘silent period’.

Language of listing revised?

Pakistan officials had begun briefing journalists even before the end of the deadline period. They argued that Pakistan had managed to dilute the language of the listing by not making any explicit link to Azhar’s role in Kashmir.

“The current listing proposal has been agreed after all political references, including removal of attempts to link it with Pulwama and maligning the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris in IOK for realisation of the right to self-determination,” said Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal.

He noted that the “Indian media’s attempts to build a narrative claiming it as a ‘victory’ for India and validation of its stance are thus absolutely false and baseless”.

“Pakistan will immediately enforce the sanctions” imposed on Azhar, he stated, adding that it has always done so with other UNSC sanctioned organisations and individuals.

According to Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, China decided to change its mind after the sponsor “revised and re-submitted the materials for listing proposal to the 1267 committee”.

“After careful study of the revised materials and taking into consideration the opinions of relevant parties concerned, China does not have objection to the listing proposal,” he said.

Geng stated that the resolution of the Azhar matter showed that international community has to “uphold the rules and procedures of relevant UN body, follow the principle of mutual respect, resolve differences and build consensus through dialogue, and prevent politicising technical issues”.

The “politicisation” of the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee has been a frequent refrain from both Pakistan and China.

Also read: India Has ‘High Expectations’ China Will Remove Hold on Masood Azhar Listing at UN

Even while dropping its objection to Masood Azhar’s listing, China stated that Pakistan had made “enormous contributions to fighting terrorism, which deserves the full recognition of the international community”. 

“China will continue to firmly support Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorist and extremist forces,” Geng added.

Sources had previously indicated that China had softened its position due to the risk of public isolation. But it is not clear if that was enough motivation for China especially since it has gone alone on other matters like India’s NSG membership and previous objections on Masood Azhar. China is currently involved in highly complex trade negotiations with the US, with President Xi Jinping also scheduled to visit Washington soon.

The US had linked the use of its diplomatic muscle to push through Azhar’s listing to India’s compliance with American sanctions to stop the import of oil from Iran. From May 2, India will be subject to secondary sanctions if it imports Iranian crude.

In his official response, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said that the listing decision was “in line with the information that India has shared with the members of the Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist activities of Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohammad”.

The entry for Mohammad Masood Azhar Alvi states that he has been listed for being associated with Al-Qaida and also Jaish-e-Mohammed, a proscribed organisation.

Mohammad Masood Azhar Alvi founded Jaish-e-Mohammed (QDe.019) (JEM) upon his release from prison in India in 1999.  Azhar was released from prison in exchange for 155 hostages held on an Indian Airlines flight that had been hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Azhar has also financially supported JEM since its founding.  

The UN Security Council listed JEM on October 17, 2001, as being associated with Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden, and the Taliban for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of”, “supplying, selling or transferring arms and related materiel to” or “otherwise supporting acts or activities of” Al-Qaida (QDe.004), Usama bin Laden and the Taliban.  

Azhar is also a former leader of the terrorist group Harakat ul-Mujahidin / HUM (QDe.008), aka Harakat ul-Ansar; most of these groups’ members subsequently joined JEM under Azhar’s leadership.  In 2008, JEM recruitment posters contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces. [QDi.422, UNSC 1267 committee]

There is, of course, no mention of Kashmir or the Pulwama attack in the language for Azhar’s entry, though the 2001 listing of JeM mentions several incidents in Kashmir. The other organisation proscribed by UNSC panel which has Kashmir in its listing is Harakat ul Mujahidin

Also read: During Visit to China, Indian Foreign Secretary Shares Evidence on Masood Azhar

In February, the UN Security Council had issued a press statement condemning the Pulwama terror attack, which had specifically noted that JeM had taken responsibility for the attack.

According to Indian official sources, Pakistan’s reference to the lack of mention of Kashmir or the Pulwama terror attack is a “mischievous attempt to salvage something out of this huge diplomatic setback for them by diverting the narrative”.

“The objective has been the designation of Masood Azhar as a terrorist and that objective has been achieved,” the sources added.

Sources noted that while Pulwama was the latest act of terror, the designation was not based on a specific incident. “It is not supposed to be a bio-data of a terrorist that all acts of terror committed by him would be listed in the notification. However, all acts of terrorism, including Pulwama, were relevant to the lifting”.

They added that the listing “broadly covers all terror activities he has been involved in”.