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Afzal hanged but mastermind Masood walks free in Pak

By Vicky Nanjappa
February 09, 2013 16:21 IST
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Mohammed Afzal Guru, who helped Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists carry out the dastardly attack on Parliament in 2001, was on Saturday hanged and buried in Tihar jail. But the main accused in the case, Maulana Masood Azhar is walking free in Pakistan.

The Parliament attack case chargesheet lists Maulana Masood Azhar as the main conspirator.

Another accused, Tariq Ahmed is also in Pakistan. Ghazi Baba, who was also among the accused in the case, was killed in an encounter with Indian forces.

Post 26/11, Indian agencies sent several dossiers to Pakistan and Maulana Azhar figured in each of them.

It may be recalled that Maulana Azhar was released in exchange for hostages during the Kandahar hijack of India Airlines IC 814.

After his release, the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammad was floated following which the attack on Indian Parliament was executed.

Indian agencies lament that in most cases they manage to get hold of the foot soldiers, but the masterminds continue to be protected and walk free in Pakistan.

The latest report on Azhar prepared by the Intelligence Bureau suggest that he has fallen out with the ISI.

This was more to do with the fact that Azhar wanted to lead the battle in Kashmir, but Pakistan’s espionage agency Inter Services Intelligence preferred the Lashkar-e-Tayiba over his outfit due to the good relations it shares with LeT founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.

The JeM, on the other hand, had gone out of control and had begun interfering in Afghanistan much to ISI’s dislike. He was clearly told that he should continue to focus only on Kashmir and provide support to the Lashkar, which would lead the battle.

Also, the ISI did not like the manner in which Azhar had tried to move his troops independently and hence ensured that he was stopped in his tracks.

Today, JeM's only area of operation is Kashmir.

Intelligence officials say that today Azhar has mellowed down and would only act on ISI instructions. However, the Indian agencies warn that despite being told to maintain a low profile, he could still spin out of control and use the hanging of Afzal Guru as a reason to strike.

Moreover, the ISI may also permit such a thing as it would mean that the heat on the Lashkar would go down a bit.

Azhar can marshal a few troops even today, as he is considered an inspirational figure by some in the KashmirValley. Although he is not an immediate threat to the Indian security agencies, the fact that he is alive and walks around freely is sufficient for Indian agencies to believe he still poses a danger.

During the 2010 Kashmir uprising, traces of the JeM were found although the operation was led largely by the Lashkar. During this operation, the Lashkar managed to recruit 70 local boys. These youth today work for the Lashkar, but coordinate with the JeM, which again is an indication that the ISI is striking a balance with the Lashkar and JeM to work in tandem at the Valley.

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