Geopolitics

The Curious Case of Masood Azhar
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 12 Feb , 2017

At a time when countries across the globe are taking serious looks at their internal security due to Islamic Terrorism, India is among the few countries whose internal security is directly related to its border security.  Liberal as she is in terms of peoples’ rights across religion and ethnicity, India has to admit that with all its boons, liberalism comes with its banes too.

In the years leading up to now, since independence, India’s multiple civil codes (and education policies) have proven to be her Achilles ’ heel – a timed bomb that can explode both within the country and along its borders simultaneously. 

Unlike the West, India shares borders with exporters of terror, and through their backing of outfits like JeM, LeT etc, Pakistan has proved their intention of continuing surrogate wars against India.

Add to this, the many ethnic groups and micro-nationalistic sentiments of groups that desire sovereign states and so forth.  Such soft spots in Indian society are eyed by her threatening neighbours, who constantly wage surrogate wars without creating conventional face-offs against India.

Masood Azhar: The Sino-Pak Love Child

Unlike the West, India shares borders with exporters of terror, and through their backing of outfits like JeM, LeT etc, Pakistan has proved their intention of continuing surrogate wars against India; and they have China on their side to provide them with necessary international support.  China’s links with home grown Indian terror groups are no longer a matter of debate, for these have been proved time and again – links through international terror cartels are yet to be found on the public domain, but their alliance with Pakistan in the case of Masood Azhar reeks of a dead rat.

On February 2nd, China (once again) blocked the UN’s bid to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, and this time the proposal was from the US.  The US Department of Treasury has listed Azhar as a Specially Designated National (SDN) and the world has no doubts that this ‘Maulana’ is a terrorist.  What then is China’s reason to maintain this man in their good books?  Most analysts opine that India’s backing of the Tibetans-in-Exile is one of the main causes for this stance, but we need to carefully examine certain facts carefully before jumping to this conclusion.

The website of the organisation, www.ar-rahmah.org lists the names of three core members, but the name of one Sante Ciccarello, which appears on the Charity Commission database of the government, is conspicuously missing from this list.

Implications of UN Sanctions

Once the UN Sanctions Committee designates a person as a Global Terrorist, pressure builds up on the member states to take actions against the person, including the immediate freezing of his assets, travel ban and arms embargo.   The banning of Jaish-e-Mohammed by Pakistan means nothing, because Azhar himself walks scot free under patronisation of Sino-Pak.  Organisation nomenclatures have been changed (or allegiances shifted) by Azhar time and again.  It is the man, not the organisation that is important for patron states and every time the proposal to brand Azhar as a terrorist is tabled in the UN, China blocks it, stating ‘technical hold’, whatever that may mean.

Financial activities of Masood Azhar

The US Department of Treasury named a few entities, including Azhar, as being involved with the financial and planning operations of Jaish-e-Mohammed; among them is the name of an organisation named Al-Rehmat Trust.

The Al-Rehmat Trust has addresses in various locations across Pakistan.  Interestingly, there is an Al-Rahmat International Trust operating out of Manchester, England having projects in PoK.  Their website states that they have acquired large land banks in Bagh (under China-Pak Economic Corridor) to open an educational institution in the area.  Out of its other listed activities, the organisation’s website (www.alrahmat.org) mentions one activity as: to provide  relief to the deprived, suffering among victims of natural or other kind of disaster to inhabitants of Pakistan and State of  Kashmir (as seen on 08-02-2017).  Records of the Charity Commission, UK state that the Charity (registered number: 1112591) has not submitted its compliance documents to the government for many years now.

The Al-Rehmat Trust has been associated with various aliases by the US Department of Treasury, including names like Ar-Rahmah Welfare Organization, Al-Rehmah Welfare Organization etc.  Striking similarities in nomenclature can be found with one Ar-Rahmah Trust (UK Charity Registration No. 1121296) based out of Birmingham.

A UN Sanction on Masood Azhar would mean that Pakistan will have to freeze his assets immediately (besides of course detain him).

The website of the organisation, www.ar-rahmah.org lists the names of three core members, but the name of one Sante Ciccarello, which appears on the Charity Commission database of the government, is conspicuously missing from this list.  Italian Muslim convert Sante (Abdulwahab) Ciccarello, former Director of Islamic Cultural Center in Milan, was named by the Italian anti-terrorist agency DIGOS (Division of General Intelligence and Special Operations) as a shareholder of the banned Al-Taqwa Bank, part of a network of financial companies named by the George W. Bush administration as a major source and distributor of funds for Osama bin Laden’s terrorist operations.

The Sante Ciccarello who appears on the UK Charities Commission database, has also floated a new Charity (August, 2016) under the name and style of Hayat Trust (Registration no. 1168885).  Ciccarello’s LinkedIn profile claims that he is based out of Birmingham and is a fundraiser for Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a well-known Islamic Charity with a network crisscrossing over 40 countries.  Often accused of being linked to terror-funding, and although ‘cleared by audit’ of such allegations, IRW remains under Israeli scanner for funding Hamas and the HSBC Bank de-linked itself from the organisation in January 2016.

Surprisingly, IRW receives a major portion of its funding (for compassionate activities) from many United Nations agencies, the European Commission, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation etc.

If Santa Ciccarello’s Ar-Rahmah Trust is linked to the Al-Rehmat Trust which is operating along India’s borders (albeit under other names) with clear links to Masood Azhar, then this is proof enough that Masood Azhar (or his coterie) is still actively involved with money laundering, hand in glove with Pakistan – China’s support of the terrorist, makes them an accomplice in the crime.

The ‘technical hold’ on the UN sanctions by China, sounds like a way of buying time until the monies change track…

A UN Sanction on Masood Azhar would mean that Pakistan will have to freeze his assets immediately (besides of course detain him).  Certain reports have stated that some of his bank accounts have already been frozen and it is just a matter of tweaking internal legal procedures before the proceeds from these accounts can be transferred to the state.

If Pakistan does not take an inventory of Azhar’s assets (and moves them) before international pressure mounts, post his branding as a global terrorist, then Pakistan’s resources for supporting terror activities in India could take a blow.  The ‘technical hold’ on the UN sanctions by China, sounds like a way of buying time until the monies change track or it could be that Azhar is an important cog in the machine of keeping PoK disturbed – so that India cannot cause any disruptions to the grand Sino-Pak business designs along the CPEC.

Finally, who can negate in certainty the possibility that one day we might read about this Sino-Pak love child’s death, while the terror machinery of which he is just a part, continues to hum in the background?

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Bhaskar Dutta Baruah

is currently a publisher by profession and was a Market Researcher in London earlier.  He analyses relevant issues out of interest.

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