China revisits its policy on Masood Azhar, asks for some time to examine instead of veto

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NEW YORK: China on Wednesday put on hold a request by Britain, France and the United States to add to the UN terror blacklist the leader of a Pakistan-based Islamist group behind a suicide attack in Kashmir, diplomats said commenting that this is the first time that China didn’t veto the suggestion rather asked to delay it as it need some time to consider the issue. “It may be taken as Chinese revisiting its policy”, the diplomats added.

It was the third time that the UN Security Council was considering a request to put Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), on the UN sanctions blacklist, which would subject him to a global travel ban and assets freeze. Jaish-e-Mohammad reportedly claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.

China has twice blocked — in 2016 and 2017 — attempts to impose sanctions on the JeM leader. The group itself was added to the terror list in 2001.

In a note sent to the council, China said it needed more time to examine the sanctions request targeting Masood Azhar, diplomats said. India and Pakistan carried out air raids last month across their disputed Kashmir frontier in clashes that sent tensions soaring between the nuclear-armed countries.

The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, UK and the US on February 27 after the attack in Pulwama on Feb 14 that had killed 40 Indian troops.

This is the fourth time China has blocked such a move. In a note sent to the council, China said it needed more time to examine the sanctions request targeting Masood Azhar, diplomats said.

“China will adopt a responsible attitude and continue to participate in discussions,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang had said before the UNSC session.

The move didn’t go down well with the India government. In a statement by its Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India asserted that the committee was not able to come to a decision on the proposal on account of a member placing the proposal on hold. “It added that India will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on Indians are brought to justice,” he added.

It may be recalled that Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior on previous Tuesday announced that it had taken 44 under-observation members of proscribed organisations, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hamad Azhar — the brother and son of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Masood Azhar, respectively — for investigation.

Ministry of Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan at a press conference on Tuesday.“This is across the board — we don’t want to give the impression that we are against one organisation,” said Khan while talking to the media.

He acknowledged that some people who have been detained — including Raoof and Azhar — are named in the dossier handed by India to Pakistan on the Pulwama attack. “It does not mean that action is being taken against only those individuals who are mentioned in the dossier.”

According to sources, the government is also considering to take Masood Azhar into preventive custody, however a final decision in this regard will be taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan.