The US State department on Aug 16 designated Hizbul Mujahideen, also known as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, and HM—as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Only on June 26, 2017, the US has declared Pakistan-based HM chief Mohammad Yusuf Shah, aka Syed Salahuddin, as a global terrorist.
This US decision is a clear signal that the Trump Administration is displeased with Pakistan. It is no small victory for India in the war against terrorism, more so since the US officials have gone on record saying that the HM still has a major presence in Pakistan and uses it for launching attacks in Kashmir.
All this is naturally bad news to the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, who is yet to settle down as full-time proxy of Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad till the country goes for elections next year. His government will come under increased pressure to do more about tightening the screws on terrorist groups that use its territory for launching cross-border attacks in India (J&K) as also Afghanistan. Over the next few days, Washington is set to unveil its new Afghan policy. It is not going to bring smile to the Pakistani GHQ.
Formed in 1989, HM is one of the largest and oldest Jammu & Kashmir centric militant groups, which are known to be foot-soldiers of Pakistan’s ISI. It has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014, explosives attack in Jammu and Kashmir, which injured 17 people.
“The US action (against HM) taken under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (of the US) primarily seeks to deny HM the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks”, said the State Depart¬ment spokesman. Henceforth, all of HM’s property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.
When Salahuddin was declared a global terrorist two months ago, the State Department recalled that in September, 2016, he had vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces.”
Like the latest decision against HM, the action against Salahuddin could be said to be day late in coming but nevertheless it sends a clear signal that the global cop is no longer unwilling to factor in India’s concerns for short term or near term considerations.
Salahuddin heads the Muzaffarabad based United Jihad Council (UJC) that represents 13 jihadist groups including Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and his own Hizbul Mujahideen. The US has banned both LeT and JeM. His declared aim is Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan and establishment of Sharia in the state. HM has carried out numerous attacks over the last two decades and Salahuddin carries the blood innocents on his hands. HM has claimed responsibility for the 2016 Pathankot raid that had derailed India-Pak dialogue.
The notification against Salahuddin came in the run-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington for a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. While speaking at the Riyadh summit in May, Trump described India as a victim of terror but made no mention of Pakistan though Islamabad has been claiming the badge of honour as the victim of terrorism. Well, after a long time, the US appears to increasingly align with India’s stance on militancy in Kashmir.