The US Treasury is prohibiting Americans from “engaging in any transactions” with three Pakistan-based militants and a front group.
A big win for India — the UNSC designation will subject Masood Azhar to an assets freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo. Now Pakistan cannot hide behind the usual denial syndrome anymore. She has to act decisively and firmly against the terrorists nurtured in her backyard and demonstrate to the world that Pakistani soil would not be allowed to be used by terrorists.
Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi was listed on May 1, 2019, pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 4 of resolution 2368 (2017) as being associated with Al-Qaida for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of”, “supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to”, “recruiting for”, “otherwise supporting acts or activities of”, and “other acts or activities indicating association with”:
Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi founded Jaish-e-Mohammed (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, Osama 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, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
Azhar is also a former leader of the terrorist group Harkat ul-Mujahideen (HuM) / 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.
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The US Treasury is prohibiting Americans from “engaging in any transactions” with three Pakistan-based militants and a front group. Al Rehmat Trust, called “an operational front” for Jaish-e-Mohammed, was designated for providing support to and for acting for or on behalf of that group, and Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed’s founder and leader, was designated for acting on behalf of the group.
The Chinese government blocked a UN Security Council Sanctions Committee listing of Azhar as a terrorist, thwarting international efforts to disrupt the activities of his group. Starting 2009, there have been four attempts to put Masood Azhar in the UN Security Council’s counter-terrorism sanctions list. All the attempts were vetoed by China, citing “lack of evidence”. China moved to protect Azhar again in October 2016 when it blocked India’s appeal to the United Nations to label him as a terrorist. China also blocked a US move to get Azhar banned by the UN in February 2017.The most recent attempt was on March 13th, 2019. However, China pulled the blockade in May 2019, finally resulting in the listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
In early 1994, Azhar travelled to Srinagar under a fake identity to ease tensions between Harkat-ul-Ansar’s feuding factions of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. India arrested him in February from Khanabal near Anantnag and imprisoned him for his terrorist activities with the groups. On being arrested, he said, “Soldiers of Islam have come from 12 countries to liberate Kashmir”.
In July 1995, six foreign tourists were kidnapped in Jammu and Kashmir. The kidnappers, referring to themselves as Al-Faran, included the release of Masood Azhar among their demands. One of the hostages managed to escape whilst another was found in a decapitated state in August. The others were never seen or heard from since 1995. The FBI had interrogated Azhar multiple times during his jail-stay on the locus of the kidnappings.
Four years later, in December 1999, an Indian Airlines flight (IC-814) en route from Kathmandu in Nepal to New Delhi was hijacked and eventually landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan after being flown to multiple locations to Amritsar and finally to Kandahar under Taliban control at that time, which was initially thought to be on India’s side, but later was suggested to be working with Pakistan’s ISI. Masood Azhar was one of the three militants demanded to be released in exchange for freeing the hostages.
Subsequently, Azhar was freed by the Government of India, a decision criticised by many including Dr Farooq Abdullah who as J&K CM resisted his release from Kotbalwal Jail but was persuaded by then R&AW chief Doulat and J&K governor Saxena. The hijackers of IC-814 were led by Masood Azhar’s brother, Ibrahim Athar. His younger brother Abdul Rauf Asghar had planned the operation. Masood Azhar was handed over to the hijackers, they fled to Pakistani territory. Shortly after his release, Azhar made a public address to an estimated 10,000 people in Karachi. He proclaimed, “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed India”, vowing to liberate the Kashmir region from Indian rule.
In 1999, after Masood’s release, the Harkat-ul-Ansar was proscribed by the US and added to the list of banned terrorist organisations. This move forced Harkat-ul-Ansar to change its name to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM).
After the hijacking and release drama, Azhar started a new outfit named as Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). He reportedly received assistance from Pakistan’s spy agency — the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and multiple Sunni sectarian organisations based in Pakistan. The JeM is run by Azhar’s family like a family enterprise.
Jaish-e-Mohammed carried out a string of deadly attacks against Indian targets, including the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war. The terrorist attack on the Parliament of India in New Delhi happened on December 13, 2001. The perpetrators belonged to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) — both Pakistan-based terrorist organisations. The attack led to the deaths of five terrorists, six Delhi Police personnel, two Parliament Security Service personnel and a gardener — in total 14 — and to increased tensions between India and Pakistan, resulting in the 2001-02 India–Pakistan standoff.
Soon after the Indian Parliament attack, on December 29, 2001, Masood Azhar was detained for a year by Pakistani authorities, after diplomatic pressure by India and the international community, in connection with the attack but was never formally charged. The Lahore high court ordered an end to the house arrest on December 14, 2002, much to the fury of India. Azhar was never arrested after that.
On December 7, 2008, it was claimed that he was among several arrested by the Pakistani government after a military raid on a camp located on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He continued to live in Bhawalpur. Pakistan’s government denied it had arrested Masood Azhar and said it was unaware of his whereabouts. On January 26, 2014, Masood Azhar reappeared after a seclusion of six years. He addressed a rally in Muzaffarabad, calling for the resumption of jihad in Kashmir. His group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, claims he is currently in Srinagar, India.
The 2016 Pathankot attack on Indian air base is said to be masterminded by Masood Azhar and his brother. They were in direct touch with the terrorists even after the attack had begun. Indian investigative agencies have given dossiers containing proof of Azhar’s complicity in the terror attack and also sought a second red corner notice from Interpol.
On February 14, 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was attacked by a vehicle-bound suicide bomber in Lethpora near Awantipora, Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The attack resulted in the death of about 44 CRPF personnel and the attacker. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed. He approved the attacks from the Pakistani Army Hospital where he is under protective custody.
After the attack, France, the United Kingdom and the United States moved a proposal at the UN Security Council to ban Masood Azhar and declare/designate him as an international terrorist. China had put up stiff resistance for Pakistan and Masood Azhar in the past on four occasions but finally China realised that she can not antagonise the world community on the question of war and peace, especially terrorism. She cannot eschew being seen playing woolly and wooden-headed diplomacy in the present dynamics of international relations.
Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi was on May 1, 2019 listed, pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 4 of resolution 2368 (2017) as being associated with Al-Qaida for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of”, “supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to”, “recruiting for”, “otherwise supporting acts or activities of”, and “other acts or activities indicating association with”:
A big win For India — the UNSC designation will subject Masood Azhar to an assets freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo. Now Pakistan cannot hide behind the usual denial syndrome anymore. She has to act decisively and firmly against the terrorists nurtured in her backyard and demonstrate to the world that Pakistani soil would not be allowed to be used by terrorists.
The writer is a senior advocate and a political analyst based in Srinagar