New Delhi: For the first time, India has shared with members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) recent audio recordings by the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar to show that he has been active in fomenting jihad and terror attacks in Kashmir.
After the February 14 Pulwama attack which left over 40 CRPF personnel dead, three UNSC permanent members – the UK, France and the US – moved a proposal to list Azhar as a global terrorist, which would make him subject to targeted sanctions.
The proposal was moved after India launched airstrikes against a madarsa run by JeM located in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunwa province on February 26. The next day, Pakistan also dropped bombs inside Indian territory in Kashmir.
While JeM was listed as a terror organisation in October 2001, similar efforts to get the founder onto the database have not been successful due to objections by China. There have been at least three attempts to move a resolution in 2009, 2016 and 2017 by the three Western countries, but each time, China – Pakistan’s closest ally – has put a ‘technical hold’ on the proposal.
Following the three sponsors initiating the latest proposals, the UNSC members have time till the afternoon of March 13 to register their concern. If no objection is received by the deadline, then the proposal will sail through automatically.
During earlier attempts to list the JeM chief as a global terrorist, India has shared with UNSC members information about Azhar, but it has been limited to written text on links between him and JeM, which he founded after being released in exchange for hostages following the IC-814 hijacking.
The Wire has confirmed from diplomatic sources that for the first time, India has shared audio recordings of Azhar in which he is clearly advocating militant jihad in Kashmir.
“Usually, China and Pakistan have argued that there is no link between Azhar and JeM, and especially in recent times. So we have provided recent audio clips that clearly show the connection,” confirmed a senior Indian diplomat.
The Wire obtained the transcripts and audio recordings shared by India with the UNSC members last week. These recordings were released in the last two months, with the latest one being his statement after India’s Balakot airstrikes.
“This is the first time that we are indicating that Masood is active and there is plenty of recent evidence of his incendiary statements promoting violent extremism against India,” the diplomat added.
‘Pakistan is part of Kashmir,’ says JeM chief in recording
In a 15-minute long sermon released on February 5, Azhar urged his listeners to go to Jammu and Kashmir and “attain martyrdom there”. He asked Kashmiris to “come collectively and then India will be vanished within a month”.
He described Indians as “filmmakers, dancers and cricketers”, who are “getting famous because of nudism”. “If whole Kashmir will come out unitedly then Pakistan too would support them, then India will be no more. Let me convey the world that Pakistan and Kashmir are not separate entities. Kashmiris say Kashmir is part of Pakistan, but I say Pakistan is part of Kashmir”.
Two days after the Pulwama attack, the JeM chief released a message in which he said that the suicide bombing on the CRPF personnel was only the first “dose”.
As per the transcript of the February 16 speech, Azhar claimed that JeM would conduct further attacks on India. Once JeM conducts further attacks, India will itself come for talks and surrender Kashmir, he stated.
Azhar threatened that if Kashmir is not surrendered, “fire” will reach Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and then engulf the entire country.
In an earlier speech, Azhar had even cited the example of the US’s talks with the Taliban. “The way USA is begging for dialogue in Afghanistan – next year, India will beg for dialogue”.
Another recording that India has shared is Azhar’s sermon from February 26 – that is, just after Indian warplanes dropped bombs in Balakot in the wee hours.
Masood Azhar’s recording after Balakot airstrikes
In the one-minute-and-14-second long clip, Azhar described news reports that airstrikes had “killed many Jaish militants, including some members of ‘their’ [Azhar] family” as “Indian propaganda”. Azhar then lauded the suicide bomber, Adil for having “alone killed dozens of Indian forces” and taunted that the Indian military had not caused any loss of life.
Pakistan has taken journalists from local and foreign media outlets to Balakot, but have so far refused to allow any outsiders to visit the JeM facility. India has claimed to have killed a “very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action”. Islamabad has asserted that there were no casualties from Indian strikes.
Azhar ended his speech with slogans hailing Islam, Jihad, Pakistan and “martyrs of Kashmir”.
Sources said that these recordings demonstrate that Masood Azhar remains active and continues to spew “incendiary statements promoting violent extremism against India”.
“The objective now is only to show the continuing linkage between founder and organisation that has claimed responsibility,” he said, even as he added that India was only supplementing the efforts being made by the ‘P-3’.
Pakistan foreign minister S.M. Qureshi had claimed in an interview to CNN that Azhar is “very unwell”. “He is unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house,” Qureshi was quoted as saying.
He also explicitly noted that Azhar is in Pakistan.
A few days later, Pakistani military spokesperson, Asif Ghafoor told CNN that Jaish-e-Mohammed “does not exist in Pakistan”.
On February 25, UNSC president, Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea, issued a press statement condemning the Pulwama attack. It specifically noted that Jaish-e-Mohammad had claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.
China’s efforts to dilute the press statement were unsuccessful, but it may not be as easy to change Beijing’s mind on the UNSC listing.
On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang linked Beijing’s current view about finding a resolution to the UNSC to its previous positions, which didn’t provide much scope for hope in a change in position:
“We already stressed China’s position on the listing of terrorist organisations and individuals in the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on many occasions. China has all along participated in relevant discussions in a responsible manner and in strict accordance with the rules of procedure and provisions of the 1267 Committee. China will continue to communicate and work with relevant parties in a responsible manner so as to properly resolve this matter. Only by making a decision through responsible and serious discussions can we find a lasting solution.”
Indian officials point out that in previous instances, China has revealed its cards on the UNSC listing just before the deadline.
India has been expending precious diplomatic capital on the UNSC listing of Masood Azhar, even though it has not impacted the operational capacity of other listed terrorists. The 26/11 attack master-mind Hafez Saeed, who was listed in March 2009, continues to live and work freely – with occasional stints behind bars when there is international pressure.
However, Indian official sources have said that the listing of Azhar, irrespective of Islamabad’s subsequent action, would be helpful in building up the narrative that Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism. “If the listing goes through, the political signaling is huge,” said a highly-placed source.