Pakistan Owns Azhar''s Outfit As The ''Right Weapon'' Against India
27 August 2000
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
New Delhi: In a significant turn of events, Pakis-tan''s most powerful fundamentalist lobby has owned recently-formed anti-India outfit, known as Jaish-e-Mohammad, as the ''right weapon'' in support of the on-going ''struggle'' going on in Kashmir. Azhar Masood, founder-president of Jaish-e-Mohammad, according to classified intelligence inputs, has been listed by the Pakistani ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) as the ''real guiding force'' of thousands of Kashmir-bound jehadis. Azhar Masood, these intelligence inputs revealed, had, following his release by the Indian Government in December last year in exchange for the freedom of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814, become ''quite popular'' in the Pak Army Headquarters at Rawalpindi. Equally popular he has been found to be in Islamabad, the seat of the Pak Government and of the headquarters of the ISI. Following the ''discovery'' by the ISI of factionalism within the Hizbul Mujahideen with one section willing to quit the ''anti-India battlefield in Kashmir'', Islamabad-based anti-Indian official lobby hurriedly worked out a new strategy aimed at arranging quick and effective moral and material support for Azhar Masood''s Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit. The strategy, according to intelligence reports, was worked out several weeks before the Hizbul Mujahideen''s announcement of cease-fire declaration on July 24 and its subsequent withdrawal on August 8. And as the strategy is specifi-cally meant to enhance the striking power of Jaish-e-Mohammad, the ISI leadership has reportedly approved ''drastic'' reduction in the flow of financial aid to Kashmir-based Hizbul Mujahideen cadres. If intelligence inputs from across the border are any guide, the ISI will not hesitate to block the monetary support to Hizbul in J&K in the event of its unwillingness to intensify attacks on Indian security forces and their establishments and installations. At a time when Syed Salahuddin-led Hizbul Mujahideen in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) has been placed under surveillance by Pak intelligence detectives, unbridled freedom is being enjoyed by leaders and activists of Jaish-e-Mohammad not only in Pakistan but also in PoK, entire Gilgit Agency included. Azhar Masood is said to have allowed entry into his organisation of hundreds of trained guerrillas from Afghanistan and Pakistan''s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Azhar Masood is also said to have told a gathering of armed militants in Peshawar recently that his ''ambition'' is to have Jammu''s Kotbhalwal jail blown up in smithereens. He was detained in the Kotbhalwal jail until his release towards the end of December last. Azhar Masood''s another ''ambi-tion'' is to unfurl Pakistani flags everywhere in Jammu and Kashmir. Third ''ambition'', he himself divul-ged at Peshawar, was to see the ''soldiers'' of Jaish-e-Mohammad deeply entrenched in major cities and towns of India, particularly the Red Fort of Delhi. A top Government official told EXCELSIOR that the Delhi police and intelligence agencies had been alerted about possible moves by Azhar Masood''s Jaish-e-Mohamm-ad to expand base in the national capital. According to the official, instructions have been issued to the local authorities in Jammu and Kashmir,UP, Bihar and the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hydera-bad to take ''all necessary'' measures against anticipated subversive and terrorist acts by Azhar Masood''s men. Intelligence agencies have also been cautioned against the possible spread of bases by militant organisations like the International Sikh Youth Federation, Khalistan Zindabad Force and Khalistan Commando Force. The recent arrest of some members of the Khalistan Zindabad Force, the official pointed out, was proof of militants'' efforts to spread their base in Delhi.