Report: JeM’s Azhar calls on Pak govt to give free hand for jihad


Azhar argues that organisations like his JeM can achieve victory for Pakistan in Kashmir and avenge the 1971 defeatJaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) head Masood Azhar has called on the Pakistani government to “shows a little courage” and allow jihadist organisations a free hand in escalating their attacks in India, in order to “resolve” the Kashmir dispute, the Indian Express reported on Thursday.

According to the report, Azhar, alleged to have masterminded the Pathankot attack in January this year, was addressing the Pakistani establishment in the current issue of the JeM weekly magazine al-Qalam.

Quoting Azhar, the national daily’s report said: “If the government of Pakistan shows a little courage… The problem of Kashmir, as well as the dispute over water, can be resolved once and for all right now. If nothing else, the government simply has to open the path for the mujahideen. Then, god willing, all the bitter memories of 1971 will be dissolved into the triumphant emotions of 2016.”

The appeal was meant to stir up memories of Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, where Indian armed forces and the Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini handed the Pakistani armed forces in then East Pakistan a decisive defeat, a historical event which still feeds into the bellicose narrative of those like Azhar and Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed.

Jihadist policy has “damaged” India

Lobbying for greater role and freedom for terrorist organisations like the JeM, Azhar, according to the national daily, wrote that jihad by Pakistan-based organisations had left “every one of its (India’s) limbs badly injured”.

Touting the success of jihad as a military strategy, Azhar added, “What remained of its military prowess was exposed in Pathankot and Uri.”

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Further, according to the national daily, he wrote that instead of India putting pressure of Pakistan, the current situation in Kashmir demanded that Pakistan should be the one applying pressure. Azhar also said that Pakistan should have cancelled the Saarc summit itself, given that Kashmir is its “jugular vein”.

Last month, after the attack on the Indian Army camp in Uri, India had used its influence in Saarc to isolate Pakistan when it announced that it would not attend the regional group’s 19th summit, scheduled in Islamabad on November 15 and 16.

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Another startling suggestion made by Azhar, the national daily reported, was that Pakistan should cancel the the ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) that has held between the two countries, despite repeated exchanges of fire, unilaterally.

In 2003, India and Pakistan had agreed to a formal ceasefire along the International Border, the LoC and the Actual Ground Position Line in Jammu and Kashmir.

Continued jihad in Kashmir

Azhar argued in his article that “jihad in Kashmir” had reduced India “from a serpent to an earthworm”.

According to the report, Azhar wrote: “When we entered the tent of the jihadist movement, it had no branch in Kashmir, nor was there lightning in Iraq or Syria. There were just two fronts, in Afghanistan and Palestine, one of them active and one of them shut.”

Whether the Pakistani government agrees with him or not, there certainly seems to be an uptick in attacks linked to Azhar’s JeM.

After last month’s Uri attack, the Indian army had said that the four terrorists killed during the incident were foreigners and belonged to JeM.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had said that last year’s Gurdaspur terrorist attack, which has claimed the lives of several civilians and police personnel, was also carried out either by the LeT or JeM.

According to media reports, three JeM terrorists had attacked an Indian Army camp at Tangdhar in the Kupwara district of Kashmir in November last year. All three terrorists and a civilian were killed in that attack.

Speaking to a news agency, according to The Hindu, JeM spokesman Muhammad Hasan Shah had confirmed that the militants had stormed the Tangdhar camp.

In December of 2014, terrorists had attacked an army camp at Mohra, in Uri, the regional headquarters of the Indian Army’s artillery regiment. Eight soldiers and three policemen were killed, along with six militants. The attack came two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Srinagar ahead of the third phase of Assembly elections in the state. It was also a pre-dawn attack just like the Uri attack on September 18, 2016.

As far as the JeM is concerned, the uptick in its activities on Indian soil might well be a conscious part of the Pakistani Army’s strategy.

Speaking to the Business Standard after the January 2016 Pathankot air base attack, security and counter-terrorism expert C Christine Fair had said: “JeM had been defunct for years after it split in December of 2001. Its leadership was divided over whether they should turn their guns on Pakistan for aiding the Americans in bringing down the Taliban. Azhar said he would not turn against Pakistan even as members of his organisation revolted and went on to join Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).”

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She added: “As part of its strategy to combat TTP, the Pakistani army contacted TTP commanders and gave them a choice to go back and fight in Afghanistan; this coincided with the elections in Afghanistan. The other important part of the strategy was that the Pakistani army revivified JeM to draw back the original defectors from JeM and redirect them to India.”

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