Will UN listing of Azhar Masood impact Kashmir militancy?

K B Jandial
While India is genuinely jubilant over UN listing of the dreaded terrorist and founder of Pakistan based Jaish-e-Moham-med, Azhar Masood as a global terrorist on May 1, 2019, it would be too naïve to expect any immediate impact on Kashmir militancy, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s assessment

Straight Talk

notwithstanding. It is decidedly the high mark of Indian diplomacy and a successful culmination of ten years of Indian efforts to seek international sanctions against him and his terrorist organisation even though the compromised UN resolution didn’t mention any of JeM’s terrorist activities in Kashmir. However, it cannot be denied that dastardly Pulwama terror strike of February 14, 2019 had caused such a global concern over growing Pak abetted terrorism that re-initiated international move before UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee to list Azhar Masood as Global Terrorist and ban JeM which initially faced China’s technical hold, third time in a row, to bail out its all-weather ally Pakistan. But France, USA & UK took it to Security Council and forced China which was feeling heat of isolation on countering terrorism, to fall in line, on compromised draft and thus, India’s objective was achieved.
Even UN’s 1267 Sanction Committee itself doesn’t feel that the ban is the most effective measure to contain terrorism because it knows well that it all depended on tangible ground realities in the host country. This Committee came into being through UN Resolution No 1267 in 1999 to exert pressure on the Talibans, then ruling Afghanistan, to hand over Osama Bi Laden. The Committee has been updating its list on the basis of verifiable intelligence reports which is evident from the fact that the list of 162 individuals and seven entities in 2001 swelled to 482 in 2008 and last year it came down to 257 individuals and 81 entities.
To corner BJP which is rightly claiming credit for designating Azhar Masood as Global terrorist, Congress and other anti-Modi leaders are holding BJP responsible for his release in 1999 by BJP Govt (in exchange of 165 passengers and crew held hostages at gun point on hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft from Kathmandu). They also mocked at BJP’s nationalism by recalling that the then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh escorted Azhar Masood to Kandahar in a special aircraft to release him. Arrested in 1994 at Khannabal, Anantnag, Azhar was languishing in prison and his brother and other terrorist organisations kept trying to get him out. They first tried through Al-Faran group that had abducted six foreign tourists in Pahalgam area in the summers of 1995. One of their demands was release of Azhar Masood in exchange of foreign tourists but this didn’t materialize.
It is essential to revisit those agonizing days of 1999 when there was huge public pressure on Vajpayee Govt to ensure safety of hostages at Kandahar. Vajpayee had shared with the nation the Govt strategy when he said that “in dealing with the hijackers, the Government was guided by two concerns – the safety of the passengers and the long term overall interests of our country”. Against their demand of release of 36 militants, Govt brought them to only three. Besides Azhar Masood, the released militants included another Pakistani- Omar Sayed Sheikh, and one of the founders of Kashmiri militancy, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar alias Mushtaq Latram, Chief of Al-Umar Mujahideen. Was there any other option available to secure safe release of those hostages? Or the Govt should have allowed hostages to die? But then, why these people are not talking of release of five top leaders of Kashmir militancy popularly known as HUJEY in 1989 in exchange of the daughter of the then Home Minister, Mufti Mohd Sayeed which handed down first huge psychological victory to terrorists in Kashmir that gave fillip to terrorism which continues even after 30 years? Jaswant Singh could not have escorted Azhar but someone has to be at Kandahar to ensure safe return of hostages. But in politics, even sordid situations are prone to exploitation to run down opponents.
Azhar Masood is not a ‘superman’ who can do massacres at his own. He is one of many pawns in the hands of Pakistan army, country’s actual power centre, and ISI. As long Pakistan doesn’t call off its policy to “bleed India through thousands cuts” and engineer Kashmir’s secession through gun, Kashmir may not see peace in near future despite UN listing of Azhar Masood as Global terrorist. Whosoever may be the Prime Minister, Pak army would not stop aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, CBMs or dialogue notwithstanding.
Both Hafiz Saeed and Azhar Masood are useful to Pakistan in its well stated policy to ‘bleed India’. They work in tandem with ISI to execute its proxy war against India in which other agencies including Prime Minister have little role. At a counter-terrorism conference at Oxford University, a former Pakistan Police Officer had confessed that ISI was fond of Azhar Masood and Hafiz Saeed and had to bend over backwards to keep Kashmir war going. They feel that if they don’t support and make them relevant, they would lose control over Kashmir militant operations.
Mumbai terror attack mastermind and founder of Laskhar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed too was designated as a Global terrorist by UNSC on December 10, 2008. Despite ban, Saeed-led Jamat-ud-Dawa and its Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation continued their anti-India activities with impunity. Not only that, Saeed floated political party- Milli Muslim League to contest elections. Even though his party was not recognised by Pakistan’s election Authority, still it managed to field 265 candidates in July 2018 elections. Saeed was never stopped from delivering Friday sermons at Jamia Masjid Qadsia and it was only in the first week of March this year that he was prevented from giving Friday fatwa. This was the time when he had submitted appeal to UN’s 1267 Sanction Committee to remove his name from its list of banned terrorists in its meeting on March 2019, which it declined.
Terrorist training camps in PoK and Pakistan are still intact. The ceasefire violations on LoC continue unabated with current year recording 982 violations against 1629 in 2018. However, there is some dip in these violations after Balakote surgical strike but the defence experts considered it as “tactical pause” to mislead world opinion. No fundamental change is noticed in Pakistan’s policy of using terrorism as state policy. Pakistan is not at all defensive, much less ashamed, on account of listing of yet another home grown terrorist as global terrorist. On the contrary, Pakistan which used China’s veto four times in the last ten years to save Azhar Masood from this international sanction, is scoring brownie points in ‘getting Pulwama terror strike and other JeM terrorist activities in Kashmir out of UN sanctioned notification’. Pakistani guests on Indian TV channels as also Kashmiri participants draw too much significance from ‘dropping of Pulwama and Kashmir’ from the Sanctions’ order. As in the past, the ‘banned’ terrorist activities would be routed through some new organisations. In this background, how can India trust Pakistan to be sincere in putting down terrorist activities from its soil against India, be of Azhar Masood or anyone else?
UN sanctions on Azhar Masood are good talking point within and outside the country but India can’t rely on it to contain terrorism in Kashmir. As the curtain on the acrimonious and low-level election campaign is being drawn and a new Govt would be in place by the last week of the current month, some tangible bold initiatives need to be taken to turn around the ‘grim situation’ in Kashmir. The Government may say anything but the dismal recent polling percentage in at least two of three Lok Sabha constituencies (8.76% in Anantnag and 14, 27% in Srinagar) does not speak well about the mood of the people and the situation. About 600 polling booths in Kashmir didn’t have a single vote. It didn’t happen earlier.
Bringing lasting peace in Kashmir and strengthening security grid with focus on de-radicalisation of alienated youth and their mainstreaming, persuading Kashmir mainstream parties to adhere to pro-India path, increasing Kashmir’s stake in Indian growth and social and political story are the real challenges for the new Government at the Centre. Eliminating militants under “Operation All Out” alone may not suffice the larger purpose of bringing peace in Kashmir. It has to be supported by other initiatives. Internal dialogue should not be brushed aside in the larger interest of Kashmir and the country. Once it paves way to reasonable peace in Kashmir, global terrorists like of Azhar Masood and Hafiz Saeed and their mentor Pakistan would become irrelevant. So, act firmly but wisely.
(feedback:kbjandial@gmail.com)