Masood Azhar ban

Published May 3, 2019

AFTER an over two-decade-long career piloting Jaish-e-Mohammad, one of the most lethal jihadi outfits in South Asia, the noose around Masood Azhar appears to be tightening, as the militant mastermind has been designated a global terrorist by the UN Security Council.

Read: JeM chief Masood Azhar added to UN terror list after China removes objections

While some segments may see the move as a ‘victory’ for India, the fact is that Masood Azhar and his group have caused nothing but trouble for this country. The JeM may have made India-held Kashmir its focus, but its cadres have caused plenty of havoc in Pakistan as well. For example, its militants form the nucleus of what is known as the Punjabi Taliban, a loose confederation of jihadists, also consisting of sectarian elements. Though the JeM was banned in 2002 by Pakistan, its activities continued and Masood Azhar was largely a free man. Now, with the UN proscription, it is hoped that the group is permanently shut down and its head not allowed to continue his activities.

India had been trying for over a decade to get Masood Azhar blacklisted. Each time its efforts would be blocked by China on ‘technical’ grounds. What this translates to is that India was using the JeM and its head to project the Kashmiri freedom struggle as a ‘terrorist’ insurgency, hence the Chinese and Pakistani resistance to the move.

Now that the “political references” have been removed, as the Foreign Office has put it, China has lifted its technical hold, paving the way for the JeM chief’s blacklisting.

Two lessons emerge; first, that India has been trying to conflate the legitimate — and largely indigenous — Kashmiri freedom struggle with terrorism. This false binary must be exposed; India cannot be allowed to link the Kashmiri struggle for justice and rights with terrorism. Secondly, the state must realise that tolerating such groups is a liability for Pakistan. Far from serving any ‘strategic depth’, these outfits end up isolating the country internationally.

Perhaps if we had put our own house in order, India would not have been able to exploit the situation and associate jihadist groups with Pakistan. It is also hoped that the blacklisting of Masood Azhar will help strengthen the country’s case with FATF, to prove that Pakistan is working hard to eliminate all militant outfits.

Ultimately, all militant groups and non-state actors that promote hateful, divisive and sectarian narratives must be shut down. Their funds must be choked and their organisational capabilities neutralised. All of this — and more — has been highlighted in the National Action Plan; it is just a question of summoning the will to implement it.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2019

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