Editor’s Note: This copy has been updated in light of recent development — Masood Azhar being designated a global terrorist by United Nations.
The United Nations on Wednesday designated Masood Azhar, the head of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), as a global terrorist after China lifted its hold on a proposal to blacklist him.
China removed its hold on the proposal, which was moved by France, UK and the US in the Security Council’s 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee in February just days after the deadly Pulwama terror attack carried out by the Pakistan-based terror outfit JeM.
What does being listed as a ‘global terrorist’ mean?
The sanctions committee has the power to identify individuals or groups that carry out acts of terrorism and impose sanctions on them. These measures may include:
Asset freeze: All member states of the UN are required to freeze funds and other financial assets or economic resources of the designated individuals and entities. According to the UN, “The purpose of the assets freeze is to deny listed individuals, groups, undertakings and entities the means to support terrorism. To achieve this it seeks to ensure that no funds, financial assets or economic resources of any kind are available to them for so long as they remain subject to the sanctions measures.”
Travel ban: All member states, are required to block the individual from entering or transiting through their territories. This, the UN says, will prohibit the mobility of the said people. “Member States are encouraged to add the names of the listed individuals to their visa watch lists and national watch lists to ensure effective implementation of the travel ban. Member States are also encouraged to take other relevant measures in accordance with their international obligations and national laws and regulations, which may include, but are not limited to, cancelling visas and entry permits or refusing to issue any visa/permit for listed individuals,” an explanation of the term ‘travel ban’ by the UN states.
Arms freeze: The member states are also required to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer of arms to the listed individual. “This should be understood as an obligation to prevent listed individuals and entities from obtaining arms, or related materiel or services of all types and in any way,” the Sanctions committee said.
However, according to The Wire, diplomats have said that the listing would be symbolic and was unlikely to have an effect on the ground.
Why was China blocking it?
Even though Azhar has been established as the mastermind behind several terrorist attacks, including the one on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, calling him a global terrorist would be a huge dent to Pakistan’s image, since they have let him move around freely inside their country for years.
As Mint points out in this report, blocking India’s bid repeatedly may serve two purposes for China — one is to help its “all-weather friend” Pakistan and two is to keep India engaged with its own local problems.
China has for a long time seen India as its competitor in Asia. It has also been the only country that has consistently backed Pakistan at the UN.