China frustrates action against Pak-based Jihadi gangs
Given Islamabad’s long campaign of terror against India, Richard Gregson cdocuments the role of China in thwarting attempts to bring Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorists to justice
China is playing a game of deception and doublespeak on the issue of Islamic fanatics being given safe haven in Pakistan. It has repeatedly sabotaged moves by several countries to designate Pakistan-based Jihadi extremists as internationally-sanctioned terrorists. Making a mockery of global efforts to combat terrorism, Beijing has once again vetoed a proposal — jointly moved by the United States and India on June 20, to name Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Sajid Mir a global terrorist under the UN Security Council’s 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, and subject him to asset freezes, travel bans, and arms embargoes. Similarly, at the United Nations last September, China also put a technical hold on the proposal to declare Mir a global terrorist and the proposal has now been blocked by Beijing for good.
By contrast, China sees the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and even the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan as a threat to its own interests, and is a signatory to the Samarkand Declaration of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The declaration unequivocally calls on member states to reaffirm their commitment to fight terrorism, separatism and extremism; suppress terrorist recruitment and cross-border movement; counter extremism, radicalization of youth and eliminate sleeper cells and places used as terrorist safe havens. Both China and Pakistan are members of SCO.
Mir is one of the world’s most wanted terrorists and the US has even put a $5 million bounty on his head. He was LeT’s operations manager and played a key role in the planning and execution of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. He was in constant touch with the 10 terrorists who had travelled by boat from Karachi to Mumbai, causing carnage over three days and killing 116 people and injuring more than 300. The victims included US and Israeli citizens.
Prakash Gupta, a senior Indian diplomat, played an audio clip to the United Nations General Assembly of a phone call in which Mir could be heard directing the 26/11 attackers to hunt down and kill foreigners as well as the Indian guests whom the Jihadis had taken hostage at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. ‘The proposal for listing Sajid Mir did not get through the Global Listings of the UN Security Council Sanctions Regime, despite several member states co-sponsoring it,’ he told the assembly.
There has been mounting evidence against those directly involved in the Mumbai carnage and other terror attacks in India, that they had been trained in Pakistan and sent to India by the Pakistani security establishment. David Headley, the Pakistani-American Lashkar operative, who had carried out reconnaissance of targets prior to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, was arrested by the FBI in Chicago on a drug charge in late 2008. He named Mir and one Major Iqbal, an ISI officer, in his deposition at a US trial in 2011, and later at a trial in India, after he was brought to Mumbai in 2016. In 2011, Mir was indicted by a US court for his role as the ‘chief planner’ in the Mumbai attack, along with Headley, Tahawwur Rana, Major Iqbal and others.
In a terror-financing trial in June of last year, the LeT commander was also sentenced to more than 15 years in jail by a court in Pakistan — under international pressure after being put on the grey list of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — an intergovernmental organisation set up to combat terror financing and money laundering. After considerable delay and amid intense international pressure and the fear of being put on the FATF’s blacklist and globally sanctioned, Pakistani authorities finally took action against its home-grown terrorists.
And at the UNSC, China also blocked proposals by India and other nations to impose sanctions on Pak-based Jihadi terrorists and similarly shielded Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammed boss and brain behind many terror attacks.
Amid the aggressive stance of New Delhi, however, which retaliated with air strikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan, following the terror attack on a bus carrying Indian security forces at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019, things became too hot for China to handle. In May that year, it chose not to obstruct the Security Council’s move to impose extensive UN sanctions on Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Taiba deputy chief Abdul Rehman Makki, LeT commander Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.
Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, on whose head the US had placed a $10 million bounty, was arrested in July 2019 and was reported to be serving a minimum 21-year sentence for terror financing charges in Lahore jail. According to Indian intelligence sources however, he is actually residing at his town house in Johar from where he is free to continue running his nefarious activities.
Others designated terrorists on India’s most wanted list, Chhota Shakeel — Dawood Ibrahim’s right-hand man, and the Bhatkal brothers of the Indian Mujahideen, are still at large and perhaps hiding somewhere in Pakistan.
It has been almost 15 years since the Mumbai attacks took place and yet the terrorists have still not been handed over to India. In 2009, India moved an independent proposal at the UN to designate Masood Azhar a terrorist, which was promptly blocked by China despite the tangible evidence provided by India. Seven years later in 2016, India’s bid to get Masood Azhar designated a global terrorist was supported by the US, the UK and France, but was blocked again by China. And in 2017, the proposal was blocked by China for a third time. Only after the Pulwama suicide attack in 2019, and after intense diplomatic campaigning by India through which Islamabad’s role in cross-border terrorism through the Jihadi groups was highlighted, did China relent but not before putting a technical hold once more on the joint India-US proposal to designate Abdul Rehman Makki and Abdul Rauf Azhar as global terrorists in June 2022 and August 2022 respectively.
Prakash Gupta, representing India at the conference on counterterrorism at the UN General Assembly, remarked: ‘We have righteous reasons to believe that something is genuinely wrong with the global counter-terrorism system.’ How long will the world tolerate Pakistan’s blatant sponsorship of cross-border terrorism against India? Is China in league with Pakistan in a devious mission to destabilise India?
Richard Gregson is a freelance journalist currently based in Canada