From US, a polite counter to Pak claim of diplomatic victory over Masood Azhar ban
The US said on Wednesday the designation of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar by the United Nations was a demonstration of the “international commitment to rooting out terrorism in Pakistan”, quashing relief in Islamabad that it had scored a victory by dodging mention as an accomplice.
The United States, the chief sponsor and driver of the designation, also sought to tie the implementation of the listing — imposing a travel ban, assets freeze and arms sales embargo on Azhar — to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stated commitment to eradicating terrorism, seemingly holding him personally accountable for it.
“Designating Azhar demonstrates the international commitment to rooting out terrorism in Pakistan and bringing security and stability to South Asia,” Garrett Marquis, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council said in a statement Wednesday, in the first and only on-record official comment on the listing.
Marquis also directly linked Azhar to the February 14 killing of 40 CRPF personnel, pointedly perhaps to counter those making too much of the non-mention of Pulwama, Kashmir or Pakistan in the UNSC statement on the designation and the “narrative summary” released by the 1267 sanction committee for listing.
“The United States commends the United Nations Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee for the designation of Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e Mohammed, a UN-designated terrorist group that was responsible for the February 14 terrorist attack in Kashmir that killed over 40 Indian paramilitary forces,” he said.
Mentions of Pulwama, Kashmir or Pakistan were dropped from the language finally adopted and cleared by the 1267 sanctions committee to blacklist Azhar as a concession — it is widely held though not confirmed by any party because deliberations of the 1267 sanctions committee are confidential — to China to buy its acquiescence to the designation, which it had blocked for years to appease Pakistan, a strategic ally turned client state.
In a conference call with reporters, a senior US administration official also had remarkably sharp observations about China for its defence of Azhar that had seemed so completely at odds with rising extremism and terrorism at home.
“After 10 years, China has done the right thing by lifting its hold on the designation,” the official said. “I think China has seemed to have understood that it was increasingly important that its actions on the international stage on terrorism matched its rhetoric.”
And asked if the missing mentions were concessions to China in return its support for the listing, the official said. “getting and obtaining this designation, that’s the victory we should be celebrating today and not getting bogged down in the internal dynamics of what the diplomats negotiated … Irrespective of the verbiage that was agreed upon, it was the designation that came through and the designation is not denuded by the words that were or were not used.”
US remarks on Azhar designation, Pakistan and China reflected a deep sense of frustration felt here and in the United Kingdom and France, co-sponsors of the proposal that ended in finally designating a terrorist long known for his founding and leading a group proscribed by the UN years ago.
But calling it a “good first step”, the US now wants it now hopes Pakistan will use the designation to push forward Imran Khan’s commitment to uprooting terrorism as a binary option, in his own scheme of things apparently, to his stated goal of economic development.
Asked how effective will be this designation compared to those before, the official said Khan has been “saying the right things”. The implication was that he is expected to do more, faced with the perception these counter-terrorism measures were backtracked as soon as the heat was off.