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Explained: Who is Abdul Rauf Azhar, the terrorist against whom China has blocked UN sanctions?

China has blocked a proposal by India and the US at the UNSC to designate Abdul Rauf Azhar deputy chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, as a “global terrorist”. Who is Azhar, and what are the sanction against him? Why has China blocked the proposal?

A file photo of the United Nations Security Council. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

China on Wednesday (August 10) delayed the imposition of sanctions sought by India and the United States against the deputy chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Abdul Rauf Azhar at the United Nations. The brother of JeM chief Masood Azhar, Rauf has been under US sanctions since December 2010 for acting for or on behalf of the group.

Jaish-e-Mohammad is a Pakistan-based extremist group whose primary motive is to separate Kashmir from India, and in doing so has carried out several attacks in the country since its inception in 2000. UN reports have suggested that JeM has links to the Taliban, ISI and Al-Qaeda. At present, Azhar is believed to be in hiding in Pakistan.

Who is Abdul Rauf Azhar?

Abdul Rauf Azhar rose to global prominence with the inception of JeM in 2000.

In December 1999, he popped up on the terror map when an Indian Airlines flight (IC-814) from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked and taken to Taliban-controlled Kandhar. The hijacking was planned as a plot to secure the release of his brother Masood Azhar from Kot Balwal jail of Jammu.

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On December 24, 1999, Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was hijacked after it took off from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, en route to Delhi. (Express Archive)

Following this, he orchestrated several more attacks on Indian establishments, including the Indian Parliament attack in 2000, the attack on the makeshift Ayodhya Ram temple in 2005, the attack at the Indian Air Force’s Pathankot base in 2016, and the Pulwama attack in 2019 that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel.

The attacks in 2000 and 2016 had caused a deterioration of ties between India and Pakistan, with many believing the countries were on the brink of war.

After the Pathankot attack, the National Investigation Agency sought a red corner notice from Interpol against Rauf. The global agency issued a notice stating Rauf was wanted for waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war against the government of India, assaulting the president, governor, etc, with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power besides being member of terrorist gang or organisation among other offences.

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Security personnel outside Parliament during the attack in 2000. (Express Archive)

What are the sanctions against Azhar?

The proposal to designate Rauf as a “global terrorist”, moved by India and co-sponsored by the US, was moved in the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee, a source told The Indian Express. If passed, the sanctions would result in asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.

The motion had to be agreed upon by all 15 members of a Security Council Sanctions Committee to be passed. Apart from China, the other 14 member states supported the move.

Rauf has been on the US’s sanctions list since 2010, when he was accused of urging Pakistanis to engage in militant activities and organise suicide attacks in India.

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So, why is China blocking the sanctions against Azhar?

Defending its move, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “We need more time to assess the application to sanction this individual… China has always strictly followed the rules and procedures of the committee and in a constructive and responsible manner participated in its work. We hope other members will also do the same.”

This is not the first time China has held the listing of known terrorists. In June this year, China put a hold on a joint proposal by India and the US to list another Pakistan-based terrorist, Abdul Rehman Makki under the same sanctions committee.

In the past, China has also repeatedly blocked proposals to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar.

China being a permanent member of the United Nations has an upper hand over India in the organisation. It uses its power to counter India’s global interest due to its conflict as a regional growing superpower. Not to mention, India and China have prolonged border disputes to settle, which have often resulted in violent skirmishes. The Chinese also look out for its ally Pakistan, which in the last couple of decades has become a safe haven for terrorists.

First published on: 12-08-2022 at 01:04:32 pm
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