The story so far: On January 16, the United Nations Security Council announced it had placed Abdur Rehman Makki, the Pakistan-based deputy chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the brother-in-law of 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, on its 1267 List of Designated Terrorists. The move was welcomed by India, who along with the U.S. had jointly proposed Makki’s name for UN sanctions in June last year, where China put a “hold” on it.
What did the joint proposal say?
According to the joint submission in June 2022, which has now been accepted (Makki is al-Qaida Designated Individuals QDi 433), 69-year-old Abdul (Abdur) Rehman Makki has been the “Deputy Amir” of the LeT and head of its Political Affairs Wing. India has specifically held Makki responsible for a number of terror attacks in the past including the Red Fort attack, 26/11 Mumbai attacks, a number of terror strikes in Jammu Kashmir and for radicalising youth to fight against Indian forces. India had placed Makki on its “most wanted terrorists” UAPA list, while the U.S. named him a specially designated global terrorist in 2010, announcing a two million dollar reward for information that would lead to his prosecution.
Why was the listing stalled and how did China relent?
In June 2022, China put what is called a technical hold on the designation of Makki, saying it needed more time to process the information in the proposal against him. This was not a one-off: China has consistently put blocks on the designation of Pakistan-based terror group leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) over the last few years. Although China had accepted these nominations from 2001-2010 with designations of a number of LeT, JeM organisations and individuals like Hafiz Saeed and Zaki Ur Rahman Lakhvi, it put obstacles for others like Masood Azhar (finally designated in 2019) and others including Makki. China placed holds on the designations of four other individuals whom India and the U.S. had proposed listing in 2022. While acknowledging the shift in its position, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it had decided to lift the hold after ascertaining that [Makki] had been convicted and sentenced in Pakistan, and called it a “recognition” of Pakistan’s counter-terror efforts.
While speculation abounds about the shift in policy, one reason may be that China wishes to make amends with India given nearly three years of tensions over the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Another is that it did not wish to be seen as the single country opposing a resolution on an important issue like terrorism. China’s decision may also indicate some behind-the-scenes negotiations with India, which would become apparent if Beijing makes similiar U-turns on the decisions to hold the other four listings. The Ministry of External Affairs this week said regardless of the reasons for the shift, it welcomed the decision to ban Makki, and will try its best to ensure the other four are listed too, including LeT recruiters and handlers Shahid Mehmood and Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha Saeed as well as JeM deputy and Masood Azhar’s brother Abdul Rauf Azhar (Asghar).
Where is Makki now?
In 2019, Pakistan federal agencies arrested Makki on terror financing charges, and he was convicted in 2020 and sentenced to six months to a year in prison. However, Pakistani officials have reportedly kept him in prison since then while he is being investigated on other terror charges. This is because Pakistan was asked to give commitments on prosecuting terrorists by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that had kept Pakistan on a grey-listing until last year. Now that Makki has been put on the UNSC list, it remains to be seen whether he will face more charges, and even whether he would be able to post bail given that the UNSC mandates Pakistan to ensure designated terrorists do not receive access to funds, travel or weapons.
Despite these restrictions, however, Makki was able to broadcast a video from Kot Lakhpat jail this week, denying any links with al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terror groups. For India, the Makki designation is only one initial step as ensuring the implementation of UNSC designations and stopping the terrorists from accessing any resources requires some level of cooperation or engagement with Pakistan, which at the moment is non-existent.