US says ban on Masood Azhar shows global commitment to remove terrorism in Pakistan

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Pompeo welcomes the move a victory for American diplomacy and the international community. JeM responsible for numerous terrorist attacks; comments State Department

Nation special report

WASHINGTON: Within 24 hours of designating JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN on Wednesday, the White House commented what would be very harsh for Islamabad, that the UN action demonstrates the international commitment to rooting out terrorism in Pakistan and bringing security and stability to South Asia.

The UN sanctions committee on the ISIS and Al-Qaeda on Wednesday announced the designation of Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), over its ties to Al-Qaeda. The JeM has claimed responsibility for the Pulwama suicide attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers and led to a spike in military tensions between India and Pakistan. Reacting to the development, Garrett Marquis, spokesperson of the National Security Council, White House said: “Designating Azhar demonstrates international commitment to rooting out terrorism in Pakistan and bringing security and stability to South Asia”.

The US commends the United Nations Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee for the designation of Azhar, the leader of JeM, a UN-designated terrorist group that was responsible for the February 14 terrorist attack in Kashmir that killed over 40 Indian security personnel, Marquis said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also welcomed the move and said that it is a victory for the American diplomacy and the international community against terrorism. Pompeo also congratulated the US mission in the UN which took the lead in America’s diplomatic effort to designate Azhar as a global terrorist, after China finally lifted its nearly 10-year technical hold on such an effort by India, the United States and other permanent members of the Security Council including Britain and France.

The UN Security Council designating Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist comes as a huge diplomatic victory for India and the Narendra Modi government, especially so in the election season. While China had blocked the move.

State Department

The State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that the JeM has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and is a serious threat to regional stability and peace in South Asia. “The JeM was designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in 2001 and has been listed by the UN since 2001,” she said. The US also designated Azhar as an SDGT in 2010.

“As JEM’s founder and leader, Azhar clearly met the criteria for designation by the UN. This listing requires all the UN member states to implement an asset freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against Azhar. We expect all countries to uphold these obligations,” Ortagus said.

“In line with this vision, we appreciate Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s stated commitment that Pakistan, for the sake of its own future, will not allow militant and terrorist groups to operate from its territory,” Ortagus said.

The spokesperson said that the US looks forward to further and sustained actions from Pakistan as outlined in its National Action Plan consistent with its international obligations.

The US, France along with the UK had moved the proposal to designate Azhar as a “global terrorist” in the UN Security Council’s 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in February, just days after the deadly Pulwama terror attack.

A veto-wielding permanent member of the UNSC, China was the sole hold-out in the 15-nation body on the bid to blacklist Azhar, blocking attempts by placing a “technical hold” and asking for “more time to examine” the proposal.

Pakistan’s stand

A spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar was listed as an international terrorist after “all political references” were removed from the resolution and it was not a victory for India.

“The current listing proposal has been agreed after all political references, including removal of attempts to link it with [the] Pulwama [attack] and maligning the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris”, were removed from the resolution,” said Mohammad Faisal.

“The Indian media’s attempts to build a narrative claiming it as a victory for India and validation of its stance are thus absolutely false and baseless,” he told presspersons in Islamabad.

“Our position is in line with the statements of Prime Minister Imran Khan who clearly stated that there is no space for any proscribed organisation or its affiliates to operate from Pakistani territory, our resolve for countering terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and our National Action Plan,” said the spokesperson.

“This was the fifth attempt to list Masood Azhar. Our concern was that his alleged linkage with the struggle in Jammu & Kashmir, this was not agreeable to us. Hence, he could not be listed previously. This time, we were able to have that removed. Once that is removed … then we have no objection,” he said.

Asked if China consulted Pakistan before lifting its “hold” on the listing, Mr. Faisal said: “It is a consultative process. You must have seen the press release or a reply to a question that has come out yesterday from the Chinese spokesperson, he also has spoken of it — consultative, coordinated process within the framework of the 1267 Committee that has led to this decision and of course when there is no objection, then this happens.”