The United Nations, mandated to work for the welfare of the global community without fear or favour, must respond to the Indian criticism that it was delaying taking action against Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and its leader, Masood Azhar. India has been pleading for several years now to sanction Azhar and his terrorist outfit based in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, and involved in several terrorist attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.
India's assertion, clear and strong, at a recent UN session, that the Security Council was stuck in its own "time warp and politics", is an expression of anguish and bewilderment at the abject failure of the international body to rein in terrorist groups and the states sponsoring such outfits. India's Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, put India's position succinctly: "While our collective conscience is ravaged every day by terrorists in some region or another, the Security Council gives itself 9 months to consider whether to sanction leaders of organisations it has itself designated as terrorist entities."
The silence of the UN over this critical question raises questions about fairness and legitimacy on the part of the world body's leadership. Is the UN so afraid of displeasing Pakistan? Or is it China that it wants to circle around? Even if it were to be so, the damage such a stand has caused to the prestige of the UN is immeasurable and it must be corrected. The onus is now on the new UN Secretary General.
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) is not an unknown terrorist group. It has been in existence since January 2000. Its publicly stated goals, time and again repeated by its leaders, is to carry out terrorist attacks against India. There is enough evidence as to its involvement in suicide attacks in Kashmir. In fact, not long ago, the group boasted about these attacks openly on its website and other publications which the UN can access without much difficulty. Besides India, several countries including the US have banned the JeM. At some point of time, even Pakistan had imposed restrictions on JeM and Masood Azhar.
Masood Azhar is not new to terrorism. He has been a classmate of Taliban founder and chief, late Mullah Omar, and worked closely with many leaders of al Qaeda in the past. Azhar was with the Harkat-ul Ansar (HuA) and Harkat-ul Mujahideen (HuM), two terrorist groups that many countries had sanctioned several years ago. Azhar has, since his release from the Indian jail, forced by the hijacking of an Indian airliner in 1999 masterminded by Pakistan Army, consolidated his terrorist empire. He has deliberately kept a low profile to avoid international scrutiny.
The fact that Azhar and his group could survive even after being involved in the assassination attempts on the former President, Pervez Musharraf, shows his proximity and patronage of some very powerful friends in Pakistan. Even Musharraf, who boasted himself to be the strongman of the country, could not jail or try Azhar and dismantle his terrorist empire in Bahawalpur (Pakistan Punjab). Azhar for long has been a steady ally of GHQ in Rawalpindi, and served the Army's interests both at home and abroad. Even today, Azhar and his group are loyal and useful to the army.
And this is the reason why China, which otherwise claims to work towards eliminating terrorism, has chosen to protect Azhar publicly. China's gamble is to keep Pakistan humoured so that it can expand its strategic footprint in the region. If the Chinese leadership were to learn from history, it would become clear to them that they were being drawn into the graveyard of empires. Beijing would also do well to contemplate on how Pakistan has been hoodwinking not only its people but also its allies and partners.
Whatever might be China's compulsions, the UN must not shirk from its principle duty of protecting the interests and welfare of the larger community of people. Terrorists like Azhar are threats to the ordinary people and should evoke no sympathy.
The UN must, therefore, lose no time in spending months and even years in discussing, and not deciding, the fate of a terrorist and his terrorist group. Azhar and JeM must be sanctioned forthwith and the state sponsoring these terrorist entities must equally be snubbed and censured.
The ends of justice call for such a stringent action. The UN must not fail the people of the world who have stood together firmly against terrorism. The UN must become relevant to the larger public cause and not become victim of power politics, as in this case.