Masood Azhar: The Mass Murderer backed by Pakistan

Md. Sadiq
17 February 2019

Societies that glorify mass murderers and look upon them as heroes and role models have some serious and fundamental defects, bordering on psychosis. Pakistan and certain sections of Kashmir surely fit the bill.

When the armed struggle was launched in the Kashmir Valley by Kashmiri Muslims, the idea was not so much to kill or assassinate people but to wage a war for freedom. Somewhere along the line this goal was lost and the struggle degenerated into internecine killings, assassinations and ultimately mass murder.

Masood Azhar
Masood Azhar

The truth is that the path to mass murder and atrocities was led by Pakistanis, one of whom is Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad. This organisation and its leadership cannot be called a militant group because its objective is to spread its influence through acts of terrorism and nothing else.

He calls himself a Maulana but in reality cannot be one as Islam is a religion of peace and not terrorism. He is responsible for the killing of hundreds, many of them innocent civilians, albeit Indian.

He is the man behind the massacre of more than 40 CRPF soldiers at Lethpora, Pulwama district. He was the man who ordered the suicide bomber to ram his explosive laden car on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway (NH-44) into the CRPF bus in a convoy near Lethpora in Pulwama district at around 3:15 pm leading to a huge blast in which 44 CRPF personnel were killed and around two dozen injured.

As a terrorist and Tanzim commander he is indeed brave and committed to the cause of damaging India as much as possible. A recent article in the Indian Express newspaper said he has “steered the Jaish through the 2001 Parliament attack, the January 2016 Pathankot air base attack, as well as the September 2016 Uri attack. The Jaish has introduced suicide missions to the Valley, as well as bombers driving explosives-laden vehicles, like in Thursday's attack. In all the recent attacks in Kashmir, the Jaish is a suspect. Its recent surge coincides with the Taliban coming forward for talks in Afghanistan, helped by Pakistan. The Jaish has close links with the Afghan Taliban, and the Kashmir attack sends a message to its negotiators, as well as the Taliban's own men, at a time when it is seeking peace after years of war.”

The article says that the Jaish-e-Mohammad has been bolstered in the Kashmir Valley by the Pakistan Army following greater international scrutiny of the two other active groups - Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba - and the great losses sustained by them in the hands of Indian security forces.

The JeM, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), “is an outfit formed, controlled and manned by Pakistan. The outfit was launched on January 31, 2000, by Maulana Masood Azhar in Karachi after he was released from an Indian jail during the terrorists for hostage swap of December 31, 1999, following the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Flight IC 814. The formation of the outfit was endorsed by three religious school chiefs, Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Majlis-e-Tawan-e-Islami (MT), Maulana Mufti Rashid Ahmed of the Dar-ul Ifta-e-wal-Irshad and Maulana Sher Ali of the Sheikh-ul-Hadith Dar-ul Haqqania. The outfit's creation can be linked to the popularity surrounding Masood Azhar after his release from India. Maulana Masood Azhar was the general secretary of the newly established Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA) in 1994 and was on a 'mission' in J&K when he was arrested on February 11. When he was released, the HuA had been included in the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations which had compelled the outfit to rename itself as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). However, Masood Azhar decided to float the new outfit JeM rather than rejoin his old outfit. He was also reported to have received assistance in setting up the JeM from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the then Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and several Sunni sectarian outfits of Pakistan.”

Masood Azhar was aware of his importance to Pakistan and the ISI and never bothered to hide these connections, Indian Intelligence Bureau official Avinash Mohananey in an article in The Economic Times has revealed that he interrogated Masood during his captivity. “Azhar was always boastful about his importance. He claimed that when he landed at Heathrow Airport, there was a traffic jam for two hours as many people had come to see and receive him. He would repeatedly tell me 'you people will not be able to keep me in custody for long. You don't know how important I am for Pakistan and the ISI. You are underestimating my popularity. The ISI would ensure that I am back in Pakistan'. There is little doubt that the ISI needed such Maulanas, who had the capacity to generate religious hysteria and spew venom among masses against India to spearhead jehad in Kashmir.” Pakistan made three attempts to get him released and finally succeeded by hijacking the Indian Airlines aircraft from Kathmandu.

The major attacks by the Jem include the 2001 Parliament attack, 2016 January Pathankot air base attack and the 2016 Uri attack. Masood Azhar introduced suicide missions to the Valley, including car bombers.

The Indian Express recounts Masood's history: “Born in Bahawalpur in Pakistan Punjab, Masood Azhar had been part of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, which fought against the Russians in Afghanistan, before entering Kashmir. In January 2000, he was among the group of militants exchanged by the Vajpayee government as part of the Kandahar hijacking. Soon after, he is believed to have founded the Jaish. A couple of months later, the Jaish marked its arrival in Kashmir with the Valley's first ever human bomb a 17-year-old drove an explosives-laden Maruti car to the headquarters of the Army's 15 Corps in Srinagar. The car exploded at the gate as the school boy from downtown Srinagar panicked and pulled a trigger too early. On Christmas Day the same year, the Jaish sent a 24-year-old British citizen driving another explosives-laden Maruti car to the 15 Corps headquarters. Eleven people, including five soldiers, were killed in that attack. A profile of the bomber subsequently appeared in the Jaish's official publication, Zarb-e-Momin. With these attacks, the Jaish underlined its difference with the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which had refrained from suicide attacks as suicide is prohibited in Islam.”

Masood Azhar, also wanted by the United States government, is a grave threat to not only India but also Kashmir where he is bent upon unleashing more violence and death. However, only the Almighty can get him now as both the leadership in Pakistan as well as the communists in China are protecting him to the hilt.

Md Sadiq

17 February 2019