Chinese checkers on terror

| | in Oped
Chinese checkers on terror

Repeated Chinese actions to thwart India’s bid to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist may be welcomed by Pakistan but it’s also undermining Beijing’s role as an emerging world power

China has once again thrown a ‘technical’ spanner in the global effort to ban Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant Maulana Masood Azhar. This is the fourth time in a row that China has blocked sanctioning of terrorists by the Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Not just Azhar, Beijing has also been shielding Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin at the UNSC. Salahuddin was recently designated as a global terrorist by the United States. The US has also prohibited its citizens from engaging in financial transactions with Pakistan-based terror groups — Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), JeM and their frontal groups.

China claims that there is no consensus on the listing of Azhar and Salahuddin, as there is not enough evidence against them. However, there is sufficient evidence for those who have an open eye. As for China, it does not want to see the obvious in order to protect its ‘all-weather friend’ despite knowing fully that Pakistan is the ‘mothership’ of terror attacks in not only in India and Afghanistan but also across the entire world. Azhar himself has been constantly giving statements about his role in the terror attack in India. There is an Interpol Red Corner Notice against him. The Indian Government has submitted dossiers against him at the UN and to Pakistan.

There is ample proof available. But by remaining in denial mode, China is not only siding with the rogue but is also undermining itself and its intention to join global efforts to combat terrorism. Sooner or later, the heat may turn on China and it may be left alone to fend for itself. Already, the Islamic State (IS), in a first direct threat to China, has pledged to “shed blood like rivers”. China’s hope of using the good office of Pakistani friends in pacifying terror groups against it may not work, as it did not help when two Chinese citizens were killed in Pakistan.

Already from Paris to Riyadh, Rome to New York, and London to Barcelona — Pakistani hands in terror is getting proved beyond doubt. Last year, French authorities filed terror charges against two men, including one Pakistani, Mohammad Usman, who was suspected to be a member of the IS group that massacred 130 people in Paris in November 2015.

This came around the time when Saudi Arabia too had zeroed on Pakistan nationals for terror attacks on the US Consulate in Jeddah in July 2016. Saudi Arabia had detained three Pakistanis in this connection. In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Interior Security said, “The suicide bomber who blew himself after the mid-night of Sunday (July 4, 2016) in Jeddah was expatriate Abdullah Gulzar Khan, a Pakistani national. He was born in Pakistan on September 15, 1981, and resided in Jeddah with his wife and her parents. He came to the Kingdom 12 years ago to work as a private driver.”

The US is currently fighting an extradition battle with Pakistan over 19-year-old terror suspect Talha Haroon, accused of planning to carry out Paris-style attacks on “heavily populated areas” in New York City in 2016. Besides, in May 2010, a Pakistani immigrant in the US, Faisal Shahzad, accused of planting a car bomb in Times Square, confessed to his crime.

In September this year, police in Spain arrested a Pakistani man suspected of “promoting terrorism and militant propaganda” on social media networks. According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, this 25-year-old Pakistani was part of a cell that also had three more Pakistanis who were arrested in Lleida in 2016.

In June this year, the London police shot dead a Pakistani-born Britisher, Khuram Butt, who went on a rampage, killing several near the London Bridge.  In 2015, the Italian police arrested more than 18 foreign nationals, many of whom were Pakistanis, on the charge of involvement in jihadi activities in the country and were planning an attack on the Vatican. It was suspected that the money to the jihadis were sent through hawala channels and funds were collected under the garb of ‘religious purposes’ in Pakistan.

The terror attack in December 2016 in Berlin’s Christmas market too had its threads connected to a Pakistani national, who was later released for lack of evidence. However, the attack brought under radar the possible involvement of Pakistanis in the terror attacks taking place worldwide.

“Incident in Berlin has once again brought into focus the alarming prospect of men of Pakistani origin repeatedly perpetrating acts of terror worldwide, and the fear among nations in Europe that they are extremely vulnerable to being exposed to 2008 Mumbai-style terror attacks by Pakistan-based terrorist outfits such as the LeT, whose tentacles have been found to have spread across the continent by security agencies. In Europe, security agencies in countries like France, Germany Austria and Italy are increasingly unearthing the presence of terrorists with links to Pakistan,” AFP wrote in its report after the Berlin attack.

The report added that groups like LeT and its front organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h (JuD), which carry out their activities unhindered in Pakistan, instruct Muslim youth in extremist ideology to carry out jihad against the West, and that these youth are then illegally pushed into different countries to take forward the objectives of the group to radicalise European Muslims and use them for terror attacks.

With several terror threads connecting with Pakistan, countries the world over are alarmed by the presence of Pakistanis. In fact, Pakistani nationals were recently attacked in Greece, a country which has already started deporting illegal Pakistani migrants for the fear of spreading terrorism.

The US has already tightened its noose over Pakistan. The Donald Trump Administration has retained Pakistan’s name in its list of nations which provide “safe havens” to terrorists and has directly blamed Pakistan-based terror outfits like LeT and JeM for conducting attacks against India who “continue to operate, train, organise and fundraise inside Pakistan.”

According to a report in The Dawn, the US recently shared with Pakistan a list with details “beyond just names” of 20 terrorist groups like LeT, JeM, and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Hizbul Mujahideen, Haqqani Network,  that US believes are operating from its soil to target India and Afghanistan.

The Indian security forces recently gunned down Azhar’s nephew Talha Rashid. Sooner or later, Azhar too will meet the same fate. Till that happens, designation of Azhar and Salahuddin  by the UNSC is important to control their activities. Many countries have already started banning these men and their outfits. In such a scenario, China shielding Pak terrorists may not work much beyond mere ego satisfaction. Such a step by Beijing only undermines its own commitment to terrorism. Already there are questions about its intention after fugitive ULFA leader Paresh Barua was spotted living comfortably within Chinese the territory.

China has to go beyond making speeches and signing joint declarations condemning terrorism or soon it may find itself isolated as Pakistan is today. Beijing may be an expert in Chinese Checkers but with Pakistan, it must keep in mind its chequered history.

(The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer)

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