U.S. draft resolution at UNSC to blacklist Masood Azhar

Countering China, U.S. draft resolution at UNSC to blacklist JeM chief Masood Azhar

The U.S. on Wednesday circulated a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that would blacklist the leader of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Masood Azhar, as a terrorist, setting up a potential clash with China over the move.

Indians hold a scratched photo of Jaish-e-Mohammad group chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, as they shout slogans against Pakistan during a protest in Mumbai on February 15, 2019, the day after the Pulwama attack.

Earlier this month, China put on hold a request to put Azhar on the UNSC sanctions list. That request stalled in a UN sanctions committee, prompting the U.S. to turn directly to the Security Council with the proposed resolution blacklisting Azhar. A resident of Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, Azhar formed the JeM in 2000.

Released in 1999

The 50-year-old Azhar, who was released by the National Democratic Alliance government in 1999 in exchange of hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814, has been accused of being the mastermind of the 2001 Parliament attack, the suicide attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, the attack on the Pathankot Air Force base and the February 14 attack in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops and stoked tensions between India and Pakistan.

The draft resolution obtained by AFP condemns the suicide bombing and decides that Azhar will be added to the UN Al-Qaeda and Islamic State sanctions blacklist. That would subject Azhar to a global travel ban, an assets freeze and an arms embargo.

It remained unclear when a vote would be held on the draft resolution, which could face a veto from China, one of the five permanent council members along with Britain, France, Russia and the United States.

There have been four attempts through a UN sanctions committee to add Azhar to the blacklist. China blocked three previous requests and put a technical hold on the latest one, which could last up to nine months. The JeM itself has been on the UN terror list since 2001.

Terrorist activities

Azhar is linked to terrorism for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities” carried out by the JeM, according to an annex to the draft.

The draft resolution is backed by France and Britain, which joined the U.S. earlier this month in pushing for sanctions against Azhar in the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State committee.

China has been accused by western diplomats of protecting Pakistan’s interests in the latest stand-off with India.

But Beijing has defended its decision by arguing that it had adopted a “responsible attitude” in dealing “with this issue with relevant parties via thorough consultation,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

The Chinese mission to the U.N did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Pulwama terror attack prompted tit-for-tat air raids, fueling fears of an all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed countries.

-AFP, UNITED NATIONS , MARCH 28, 2019