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Why the ISI now backs Masood Azhar

February 18, 2019 14:23 IST

'Jaish is known for its fidayeen activities.'
'This well trained human resource backed by military-based training makes the JeM an obvious choice over the LeT and HM.'

Jaish e Muhammad terrorist Masood Azhar

IMAGE: Jaish e Muhammad terrorist Masood Azhar who is now reported to be seriously ill in a Pakistan hospital.

Jaish e Mohammed founder Masood Azhar is no stranger to India. He travelled to India on a Portuguese passport in the 1990s; he visited Ayodhya and Jammu and Kashmir where he was arrested by Indian security forces.

While he was lodged in an Indian prison, followers like Omar Ahmed Sheikh kidnapped foreign tourists to unsuccessfully secure Azhar's release.

On December 31, 1999, Azhar, Omar Sheikh and Kashmiri terrorist Mushtaq Zargar were released in exchange for the passengers and crew on Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 which had been hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Once he was back in Pakistan, Masood Azhar revived terror operations against India, launching an audacious attack on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly in October 2001, followed by the Parliament attack two months later.

After the Jaish was involved in two abortive plots to assassinate then Pakistan military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, Azhar went off the terror radar for 10 years from 2004 to 2014.

Jaish returned to terror's centrestage when it was accused of launching the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January 2016, which it did not claim responsibility for. Jaish terrorists have thereafter been at the forefront of terror operations against India's security forces in the Kashmir valley.

After a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-filled SUV into a Central Reserve Police Force bus on February 14, 2019, the Jaish not only claimed credit for the horrific crime, it also released a video with the suicide bomber on it.

"The military grade logistic support, which is accessible exclusively to the military, clearly establishes the linkage of the ISI and its unending support to various terror organisations," Ramanand Garge -- associate fellow, Vivekanand International Foundation, who has been tracking Jaish e Mohammed's resurgence in the Kashmir valley -- tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

How did Jaish e Mohammed revive itself post-2014 after lying low for almost a decade?

If you see the systematic terror attacks in India by ISI-backed terror organisations, you will realise that a similar kind of attack was conducted by the Jaish on October 1, 2001, some days after 9/11, where a vehicle was rammed into the J&K assembly in which 39 people were killed and 60 were injured.

Since then, Jaish was prominently active in terror activities in J&K.

After JeM's alleged involvement in the suicide attack on then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf on Christmas 2003, its activities were curtailed by the ISI.

Lashkar e Tayiba became the ISI's blue-eyed boy, conducting various terror attacks of higher volume like the Mumbai train attack of July 11, 2006 and the 26/11 siege etc.

The world is aware that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Operation Geronimo by the US. This highlighted the duality of Pakistan against terrorism and made them take action against the LeT, as they were listed as a terror organisation in the UN and USA.

The FATF (Financial Action Task Force) has also expressed on a number of occasions its anguish about Pakistan's inability to act against the curtailing of terror funds at home.

The worst security climate of 2007 and 2010 stands testimony to it as thousands of security personnel lost their lives. The number of terrorists neutralised during this duration also is in the thousands.

Since then, there is a rise in stone-pelting incidents recorded. In the recent past, the counter-terror operations were intensified, which has caused heavy casualties to militant organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT.

This includes prominent commanders of these organisations and their overground network.

That becomes another triggering point where terror handlers (the ISI) looked for another option, and the JeM became the suitable one.

 

What is the edge that Jaish e Mohammed has over the Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen? What expertise does JeM possess which the Lashkar and Hizbul don't?

Jaish is known for its fidayeen activities. This well trained human resource backed by military-based training makes the JeM an obvious choice over the LeT and HM.

LeT is known for big impact attacks like the Mumbai siege and gun battles.

What does the JeM do to condition the minds of youngsters to take up such dastardly attacks? What do they preach or, rather, how do they indoctrinate a 20 year old into giving up his life rather than thinking of living?

Ideology plays a crucial role in any terror organisation, which is equally important as monetary and logistic support.

In this regard, the rising trend of radicalisation in the valley is a matter of concern which triggers a rising number of local militants in the valley and their support system.

The local phenomenon is a major security concern emerging in the recent past.

And what about the Jaish's finances, how do they get funds?

Informal means of mechanism are prominently used by various terror groups. The recent crackdown by the NIA (National Investigation Agency in regard to terror funding cases is testimony to it.

In such informal methods it becomes challenging for agencies to identify the finance trail and take apt action to curtail it.

Do you feel Burhan Wani's death led to JeM's revival in J&K?

Burhan's encounter is considered one of the major incidents which triggered violence in the valley.

Is it true that Masood Azhar's nephew Talha Rashid was killed by our security forces and therefore Jaish extracted revenge with the attack on the CRPF convoy?

Various relatives of Masood Azhar who were facilitating terror activities in the valley were neutralised by the security forces recently.

The revenge of these terrorists intensifies the ultimate cause of terror against the State of India. This highlights the growing capabilities of JeM in J&K.

The military grade logistic support, which is accessible exclusively to the military, clearly establishes the linkage of the ISI and its unending support to various terror organisations.

A vehicle moving around with a huge cache of explosives went unnoticed -- can it be attributed to an intelligence failure?

It is challenging for intelligence agencies of any country to achieve zero mistake success. Certain incidents cannot be considered as a failure as such, and assist security forces to effectively deal with the threat profile of India.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com
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