As tension between India and Pakistan continued and nations called upon them to de-escalate conflict, France, United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US) on Wednesday, Feb 27, initiated a move to name Masood Azhar, the founder of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed that carried out the Pulwama attack and others, as a UN-designated terrorist.
The US, UK and France have asked the 15-member Security Council sanctions committee to subject Azhar to an arms embargo, global travel ban and asset freeze. The committee operates by consensus and members have until March 13 to raise objections, reported Reuters.
Earlier, India had summoned Pakistan High Commissioner in India and handed over a dossier on “specific details” of involvement of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in the Pulwama terror attack on CRPF as also the presence of camps of the UN-proscribed terror outfit in that country.
Separately, the US called upon both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint after the Pakistani retaliatory action in response to an Indian airstrike on a Jaish training camp in Balakot, Pakistan. It also told Pakistan, keeping the focus on terrorism, to abide by its UN “commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds”.
France, which assumes the crucial rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in March, leads the latest and fourth, attempt to put Azhar on a UN blacklist that already includes JeM which he founded after his release by India in 1999 in exchange for passengers of Indian Airlines flight IC814 hijacked by five people which included one who was running Jaish’s Balakot camp hit by India on Tuesday. JeM was blacklisted by UNSC in 2001.
The three previous attempts to designate Azhar as a terrorist were blocked by China, which has cited rules, lack of sufficient evidence connecting Azhar to al Qaeda or the Islamic State, under the rules for designation by a sanctions committee set up by a UN Security Council resolution known popularly by the number assigned to it, 1267.
India had started pushing for Azhar’s listing since 2008-09, after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The most recent effort began after India blamed JeM for the attack on the IAF base in Pathankot on January 2, 2016. India moved the proposal with the P3 – the United States, the United Kingdom and France – in the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee to designate Azhar as a global terrorist. But China intervened at Pakistan’s behest and placed a technical hold on India’s move in March and again in October 2016. It subsequently used its veto power to block the proposal in December 2016, a day before the technical hold ended.
In 2017, the P3 nations moved a similar proposal again. However, on all occasions, China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, blocked India’s proposal from being adopted by the Sanctions Committee.
It remains to be seen how China responds this time.
After 40 CRPF officers were killed in Pulwama, China signed off on a statement that “condemned in the strongest terms”the Pulwama terror attack and named Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad for the “heinous and cowardly suicide bombing”. It, however, downplayed the statement later saying the mention of the JeM was only in “general terms” and “does not represent a judgement”.
The latest move comes at UNSC two days after India conducted air strikes at a terror camp run by Masood Azhar’s kin. Calling it a “non-military preemptive strike,” India said it had launched the attack based on credible information about another suicide attack by JeM in the country. A day later, Pakistan violated Indian airspace and attempted airstrikes but caused little damage on the ground. An IAF pilot, Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was, however, captured and remains in the custody of the Pakistani forces.
The Security Council condemned the Feb 14 terror attack at Pulwama in a statement last week, which was agreed after several days of negotiation. Diplomats said China had been opposed to a reference of JeM, however the agreed statement did eventually note that JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed has carried out a series of terror attacks in India – The 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament, the 2016 Pathankot terror attack, the 2016 Uri terror attack, and 2019 Pulwama terror attack to name a few.
As Pakistan stays in denial mode, India hands over dossier with evidence on JeM
Meanwhile, Pakistan, which has been labelled many times by experts as a country which uses terror as an instrument of state policy, not only denies any knowledge of terror groups on its soil, but has provided security and protection to global terrorists like Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who roam freely in Pakistan.
Pakistan, which in the past had also denied any knowledge of Osama bin Laden, was caught red-handed when the United States found him in a shelter home, minutes away from a Pakistan Army camp in Abbottabad.
India handed over to Pakistan a dossier on “specific details” of involvement of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in the Pulwama terror attack on CRPF as also the presence of camps of the UN-proscribed terror outfit in that country.
The dossier was handed over to the Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan, who was summoned by the Ministry of External Affairs to lodge a strong protest over Pakistan Air Force targeting Indian military installations, a day after the Indian counter-terror action against the JeM.
Government sources have claimed that over 350 JeM terrorists were killed in the pre-dawn strike on the terror camps in Pakistan on Tuesday.
The JeM had taken the responsibility of the terror strike in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14, in which 44 CRPF personnel were martyred.
“Regret was expressed at continuing denial by Pakistan’s political and military leadership at the presence of terrorist infrastructure in territories under its control,” the MEA said.
“A dossier was handed over to Pakistani side with specific details of JeM complicity in Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan,” it said.
The MEA said Pakistan was conveyed that India expects Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorism emanating from territories under its control.
In response to the Indian counter-terror operation, Pakistan air force tried to target certain locations in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday morning which was countered by IAF jets.
In the engagement, India shot down a Pakistani jet while an Indian IAF pilot was captured by the Paksitani authorities. India also lost a MiG 21 aircraft.
India also lodged a strong protest at the unprovoked act of aggression by Pakistan, including by violating the Indian air space and targeting military posts.
“This is in contrast to the India’s non-military anti-terror pre-emptive strike at a JeM terrorist camp in Balakote on February 26,” the MEA added.