Here’s why China is blocking attempts to designate JeM chief ‘global terrorist’
Afghanistan has been the graveyard for empires with British, Soviets and US tasting defeat in the hardy terrain. Hope Beijing has read modern history of Afghanistan.opinion Updated: Mar 28, 2017 08:10 IST
Three days before China blocked the United Nations Security Council’s attempts to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)’s Maluana Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under the 1267 committee on December 30, 2016, representatives of Beijing, Moscow and Islamabad held a meeting on Afghanistan and raised Cain over looming threat of Islamic State (IS) over Kabul.
Two months later, another meeting was held, this time joined by India, Afghanistan and Iran. In the second meeting, it became clear to New Delhi and Kabul that Beijing backed by others wanted Taliban to play an important role in the stabilisation of Afghanistan by taking on the exaggerated threat of IS after the withdrawal of US troops.
The importance of Maluana Masood Azhar lay in the fact that he continued to be close to both the Taliban leadership as well as the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) since the 1990s. The Afghan Taliban and JeM are both Deobandi Sunnis and follow Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence and have a long history together starting from jihadist teachers at Karachi’s Binori Mosque.
When Masood Azhar was released in exchange of hostages aboard Indian Airlines A-300 Airbus in the December 1999 (IC-814) hijacking at Kandahar airport, he was hugged by Mullah Akhtar Mansour, then Taliban minister of civil aviation and who later succeeded Mullah Omar as the emir of Taliban in 2015 and killed an year later in US drone strike.
The fact is that Masood Azhar returned to Pakistan after his release and then was taken to Kandahar by Mullah Mansour to meet Mullah Omar in January 2000. Even before he formed JeM terrorist group in Bhawalpur, Pakistan, Azhar was general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA) with claimed cadre strength of over 10,000 people.
During an interrogation at Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu after he was arrested outside Srinagar in February 1994, Azhar used to boost that his organisation may have started with the help of ISI but subsequently grew independent with over 10,000 followers.
The umbilical cord between Azhar and the Taliban, now headed by Hibatullah Akundzada, with a common enemy in US is the key to China’s plans in the Af-Pak region.
By protecting Azhar from global terrorist label, China is buying peace for the restive Xinjiang region from Uighurs, trained and sheltered by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan as well as its growing business interests in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan regions of that country.
Even though some TTP commanders have announced allegiance to IS, the brutal group is largely Deobandi in thought with jihadists linkage to Mazood Azhar going back to the HUA days in Afghan war.
Both China and Pakistan are well aware of the role Azhar can play in helping Taliban recapturing power in Afghanistan against common enemies in US and India in the region.
In spite the fact that JeM single-handedly scuttled the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s peace overtures to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif by launching the January 2016 Pathankot air base attack, both Islamabad and Beijing are on the same page in protecting Azhar and his jihadist machinery from sanctions.
The UN terrorist label will not only restrict the movement of Azhar but also hit at the financial funding of the JeM and the Bhawalpur madrassa.
This was also severely hamper Maulana’s capabilities with the Quetta shura of Taliban, thus nixing China’s play in Af-Pak region.
Afghanistan has been the graveyard for empires with British, Soviets and US tasting defeat in the hardy terrain. Hope Beijing has read modern history of Afganistan.
The views expressed are personal