US labels Hizbul Mujahideen a global terror outfit: Move freezes its assets, will hit them where it hurts most

On 16 August, the United States’ State Department designated the Pakistan-based anti-India terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) as a foreign terrorist organisation. The US designation bans its citizens and residents from dealing with the group, and any assets found to belong to the HM in areas under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

This move is a symbolic victory for India's efforts, coming just a month after the HM Supremo Syed Salahuddin was designated a “global terrorist”. This is particularly important because even as the US has shown a willingness to target the Pakistani anti-India terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), it had hesitated to show the same willingness for a Kashmiri terrorist group such as the HM.

FIle image of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Sayeed Salahudeen. ANI

FIle image of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Sayeed Salahudeen. ANI

While in the initial years of India-US strategic relationship, this was amenable for the Indian policymakers, New Delhi could no longer turn a blind eye towards the US reluctance particularly as the HM, after remaining a depleted organisation for most of the late 2000s, acquired a renewed vigor in post-2012 and specifically after the turbulent period of mass protests in Kashmir between 2008 and 2011.

Therefore this designation matters, even if it makes little practical difference to the HM’s activities in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and the Kashmir Valley. Syed Salahuddin, for instance despite being designated as a global terrorist and under the radar of the Western intelligence agencies, still makes public appearances and continues to spew out calls for violence against India.

The designation of HM comes also at a particularly difficult time for the group as it is trying to maintain its recent ascendancy in the Kashmir Valley and protect its turf from other terrorist groups such as the LeT, JeM and the recently formed Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an affiliate of the al-Qaeda. While the group is getting a steady stream of recruits post killing of Burhan Wani, sustaining these recruits and maintaining their expenses requires money. And this is where the US designation comes at a bad time for the HM as together with the recent crackdown by the National Investigation Agency on the separatist-terrorist funding nexus, India is surely to use the US designation to galvanise support against terrorist financing including for the HM.

Of course, terrorist organisations such as the HM have definitely enough sources of money such as hawala, outside the formal financial system which the US designations typically tend to target. And that is an ongoing battle as evident from the NIA’s cases against the HM for terrorist financing where it used the Jammu Kashmir Affectees Relief Trust as a front organisation to receive Hawala money and fund its terror operations. This is supplemented by the efforts to develop closer counter-terrorism relationship with the like-minded countries in the Persian Gulf from where the religious charity donations make their way to the terrorist groups based in Pakistan.


Updated Date: Aug 17, 2017 16:01 PM

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