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Pak asked for Azhar ban to be put off till elections, felt will benefit Modi: Sources

Pakistan’s all-weather ally China had proposed to lift its technical hold on the Azhar ban around May 15 before the last round of polling for the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections.

india Updated: May 02, 2019 15:28 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Masood Azhar,Pakistan,Narendra Modi
Jaish, the terror group that Masood Azhar had founded and led, had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.(PTI)

Much before Beijing lifted the technical hold that led to global ban on Jaish chief, Pakistan and China had reconciled to the distinct possibility that they might not be able to block Masood Azhar’s global terror tag any longer but wanted the United Nations to designate the Jaish boss as a global terrorist only after the Indian elections.

Pakistan didn’t want the terror listing to happen at a time India was in the middle of national elections as it could benefit Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is in the middle of a campaign for a second term, people familiar with developments said.

Watch | Pakistan, China wanted Masood Azhar ban after elections, felt will help Modi

Its all-weather ally China had proposed to lift its technical hold on the Azhar ban around May 15 before the last round of polling for the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections.

But the United States, which played a lead role in nudging China to back down on the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar ban, was unwilling and had proposed April 23. The date was then moved by the US to April 30 and later a compromise of May 1 was reached.

Also read: ‘Brief the boss’: The backstory of Masood Azhar’s global terror tag

There has a clear realisation in the Trump administration after the February 14 Pulwama suicide bombing – the deadliest in 30 years of militancy in Kashmir – that the terror tag for Masood Azhar was an firm step for peace.

It is a point that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to in his first reaction to the UN listing, describing it as a victory for US diplomacy and global community against terrorism “and an important step towards peace in South Asia”.

Jaish, the terror group that Masood Azhar had founded and led, had claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

China had already blocked three attempt to sanction Masood Azhar over the last many years.

This time, France, with the backing of the US and the UK, moved a proposal at the 1267 Sanctions Committee to sanction 50-year-old Azhar. China blocked the proposal on March 13 by saying more time was needed to discuss the issue. An angry US threatened to take the matter to the UN Security Council.

It didn’t go down well with China but Beijing and Islamabad, people familiar with the developments said, figured that it wasn’t a question of if, but when.

Also read:Masood Azhar banned, Pakistan to prop up Lashkar if Jaish goes off radar

At the UN Security Council, discussions are held in public unlike consultations held behind closed doors by the sanctions committee. It would be difficult for anyone to defend blocking the terror tag for Masood Azhar, not when the Jaish-e-Mohammed that he leads was designated a foreign terror group by the US in 2001, and has been listed by the UN since 2001.

Back in Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government had gone into damage control mode hours before the UN listing became public. Pakistan government attempted to attribute the absence of a reference to Kashmir or Pulwama in the UN listing as a diplomatic victory.

Indian officials have said that the Masoods Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed was already named in the February 21 UN Security Council unanimous resolution that included China as responsible for the dastardly Pulwama suicide attack on CRPF convoy. Also, this resolution talked about nailing the perpetrators.

India with its key P3 allies decided to nail the leader rather than get into peripheral issues. “ If Pakistan says that they accepted the UNSC listing of Azhar as Pulwama was not there, then what was stopping them in 2009, 2016 and 2017 when there was no Lethpora attack. JeM had been held responsible for Pulwama, hence we ipso facto decided to go for listing of the leader,” said a senior official.

Also read:What the listing of Masood Azhar as global terrorist means

First Published: May 02, 2019 11:18 IST