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US moved the UN on Lashkar men, China put it on hold

As India weighs its diplomatic options after the Mumbai terror attack, it now emerges that four months ago the US had moved the United Nations...

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi |
December 7, 2008 1:55:28 am

As India weighs its diplomatic options after the Mumbai terror attack, it now emerges that four months ago the US had moved the United Nations to proscribe four key men of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), including its ideologue Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed. Pakistan objected to it and it was put on “technical hold” by China for want of more evidence.

It is learnt that Washington had moved a single proposal seeking to ban four new aliases of the Al Rashid Trust and the Al Akhtar Trust International besides four individuals from the Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a front for the LeT. The Jamat men were

Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhwi, Haji Mohammed Ashraf and Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmed Bahazik.

While Sayeed is the founding chief of the LeT, Zaki-ur-Rehman is considered to be the chief of operations and widely suspected as the main planner behind the Mumbai attacks. Haji Ashraf, on the other hand, is the chief of finance while Bahazik is said to be of Saudi origin and the main financer of LeT in 1980s and 1990s.

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Under UN Resolution 1267, also known as the Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, all member states are obliged to freeze assets of these individuals, ban their travel and forbid any support from within and outside their country.

But clearly, the inability to include these names has allowed patronage to continue in Pakistan with reports emerging few months back that Sayeed was given a Customs duty waiver by the Pakistan government to import a couple of bullet proof SUVs for himself as head of JuD.

The US move in August at the UN, sources said, was a follow up of the action US Treasury Department took on May 27 when it designated these four men holding “leadership positions” in the LeT as terrorists whose financial assets should be frozen and dealings deemed illegal in the US. However, the attempt to place these names in the relevant UN resolution hit familiar obstacles.

Pakistan objected to this move on the grounds of “insufficient evidence”, which could have been handled, according to sources, had it not been for tacit Chinese support. Being a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China did not use the veto but another procedure to block the proposal.

According to information available with New Delhi, the Chinese side took the line that it is not proper to proscribe an organisation on a mere statement that they were aliases of an already banned terror outfit as this could end up targeting genuine NGOs. The same was underlined for the four individuals like Sayeed who claim to do welfare work. Finally, a technical hold was placed on the condition that the US should provide additional evidence.

This, sources said, was very much a repeat of what happened in 2006 when in May that year, the US banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa as an alias of LeT but could not push it through the UN because of a similar hold placed by China on that occasion too. However, LeT itself was put on the UN list of proscribed organisations for links with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2005.

While both the Left and BJP have demanded that the government should move the UN after the Mumbai terror, the formidable challenge would be break the strong Sino-Pak tandem at the UN. For any desirable result, sources said, high-level diplomacy with Beijing would be needed.

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