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UN blacklists Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed founder

A UN Security Council committee blacklisted the head of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) on Wednesday after China dropped its objection to the move, ending a long diplomatic impasse, Reuters reported.

Western powers have for many years been attempting to sanction JeM head Masood Azhar, whose group has carried out several high-profile attacks in India, but Pakistan ally China has repeatedly opposed their efforts.

JeM claimed responsibility for a February suicide bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir, an attack that brought the two nuclear-armed neighbors to the brink of war.

Azhar’s freedom within Pakistan has been a sore point in the relationship between Western countries and Pakistan, and has led to repeat accusations by India that Islamabad uses and harbors militant groups to further its foreign policy agenda. Pakistan denies such accusations.

The United States, Britain and France had initially asked the UN Security Council’s ISIS and al-Qaeda sanctions committee to subject the JeM founder to an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze in February.

But the move by the 15-member committee, which operates by consensus, was blocked by China, which had previously prevented the sanctions committee from imposing sanctions on Azhar in 2016 and 2017. China had said it wanted more time to study the February request.

The United States, Britain and France then stepped up their push to blacklist Azhar in late March by proposing a resolution, which would have needed nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France to pass.

After further negotiations, they instead submitted a new request to the committee on Sunday to sanction Azhar, which was agreed on Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement that Beijing had no objections to Azhar’s listing after studying revised proposals at the United Nations and that the issue was now “appropriately resolved.”

“I would like to emphasize that Pakistan has made enormous contributions to the fight against terrorism, which should be fully affirmed by the international community. China will continue to firmly support Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism and extremist forces,” Geng added, without elaborating.


PAKISTAN TO ENFORCE SANCTIONS

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Islamabad agreed to the move after the listing removed references to the February attack in the Indian city of Pulwama, as well as linking it to the insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which Pakistan terms a struggle for self-determination.

“We’re going to enforce this decision forthwith,” Faisal told reporters in the capital, Islamabad, referring to the travel ban and asset freezes.

In a statement, India’s foreign ministry welcomed the designation of Azhar as “a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers.”

JeM, a predominantly anti-India group, also forged ties with al-Qaeda and was blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2001.

In December 2001, the group’s fighters, along with members of another Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked India’s parliament, which almost led to a fourth war between the two countries.

The February attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir prompted India to carry out an aerial bombing mission inside Pakistan, the first such move since a 1971 war. Pakistan carried out its own aerial bombardment the following day, and the two countries even fought a brief dogfight over Kashmir skies.

Tensions began to ease when Pakistan, amid pressure from global powers, returned a downed Indian pilot shot down over Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Pakistan has been on a charm offensive in recent months to avoid the country being blacklisted by a global financial body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors money laundering and terrorism financing.

Islamabad has vowed to crack down on anti-India militants and other outfits operating on its soil. It has shut down some madrassas linked to violent groups and as part of the crackdown also detained relatives of Azhar in “protective custody”.

 

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