Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar was captured by India but had to release him with two others after the hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in December 1999.
The person who negotiated with the hijackers was Ajit Doval , National security advisor of India who then was India’s Intelligence bureau chief. He was present there when Azhar had to be exchanged In order to save the lives of passengers on Indian Airlines flight.
Masood Azhar is a Pakistani citizen and was born in Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He had this fury within him since childhood and was also broke his teeth during 1980s Soviet-Afghanistan war. Later he joined Islamic groups and eventually started working against Kashmir in 1990s. Due to his anti national activities he was caught by India from Srinagar in 1994.
Post his exchange during Indian Airlines hijack, he formed his group called Jaish-e-Mohammed and carried out several attacks against India. Hence people called him India’s Osama Bin Laden.
It has been nearly two decades since his release after the Hijack, he resided in Pakistan and Jaish-e-Mohammed became bigger day by day. As an attempt to destroy the said terror camp, India carried out an air strike on February 27 this year where they claimed to destroy the entire Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp. Soon after the attack talks about his death started spreading. Rumors became even stronger after Pakistan’s foreign minister agreed that Masood Azhar was in Pakistan and was very unwell. In order to clear the rumors Jaish released a statement saying Masood was very much alive and fit.
How Jaish entered the Kashmir valley
Jaish-e-Mohammed entered Kashmir valley in April 2000 after planning a suicide bombing in the area. The bomber Afaq Ahmed Shah was seventeen years old, a school teacher’s son who rammed a car full of explosives in an army cantonment in the outskirts of Srinagar. After Kargil war of 1999 Kashmir saw a total of 45 suicide bomb attacks. Jaish was very
active in 2000 and even planned attacks on Parliament, Red Fort and against the forces. His aim was to destabilize Indian state in Kashmir.
Jaish set up a camp in Pakistan
The first camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed is believed to have been set up in Balakot in Khyer Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan. According to author Riaz Hassan, this camp was set up by Saifur Rehman Saifi who is believed to have been a doctrine of Jihad by harkat -ul-ansar now known as harkat-ul-mujaihideen. Azhar himself was once general secretary of the Harkat-ul-Ansar.
Choice of Balakot as base might not be accidental as historians believe that the ideological tradition of jihad in south Asia can be linked to this place. Sayyid Ahmad Barelvi, who joined a band of military adventurers in North India which he believed to be a religious war. Barelvi was killed in Balakot in 1831 when he waged a war against the Sikh Kingdom of Ranjit Singh.
According to a report by a terrorism expert from America in 2006, images of a place in Balakot from 2001 to 2004 showed a terrorist training camp. Pakistan then had also denied the claim and said it was absurd.
Azhar made Pakistan his permanent refuge
After getting released in 1999 he finally found a refuge in Pakistan. Pakistan also is believed to have links with alQaeda and Taliban hence initially Jaish was not comfortable being in Pakistan.
Pakistani journalist once said that he once heard Azhar from a mosque in Islamad but Pakistan again denied him being present in the country. The journalist managed to meet him and described his security was no less than VVIP.
Azhar was implicated as he tried to engage in assassination of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2003. India again put a pressure on Pakistan in 2016 after Pathankot attacks yet Pakistan gave no signs of Azhar being present in the country. Indian Airforce base was attacked in Pathankot in 2016.
Indulgence of Afzal Guru
Afzal guru was convicted for his role in attacking the parliament in 2001. He was hanged in secret and instead of handing over the remains to the family, they were buried in Tihar Jail. The group took and advantage of his death to mobilize support.
In November 2015 Jaish carried out an attack on an army camp in Kupwara district. Indian intelligence agencies has been after him since then and have reported his involvement in number of high profile attacks like the siege of airforce base in Pathankot in 2016, a raid on the army camp in URI, targeting an army camp in Nagrota. The group also attacked Central Reserve Police Force training camp in Pulwama in 2017 December.
In February 2018 an attack was carried on Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu for which Jaish was held responsible because it was just a day after Afzal Guruz death anniversary. After the death of Afzal Guru several attacks were named after Afzal Guru Squad which also is known as fidayeen squad.
Latest attack by the group was On February 14, 2019 where a car full of explosives was rammed into an army vehicle which killed more than 40 jawans.
Comeback in Kashmir
As per a report , Jaish took centre stage in Kashmir to provide a little break to Lashkar-e-Taiba and and Hizbul Mujahideen. Moreover so because Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed was already under international scrutiny.
As per police officers in the valley, currently the group has around 50 militants in the valley and fresh recruits keep on going where more foreigners outnumber. Most of their bases are in Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama in South Kashmir.
Noor Mohammad Tantray is the recruitment commander of the group. He was convicted in 2013 but was later released on payroll in 2015. In December 2017, he was killed by the security forces in Pulwama. By then the group had grounded its roots in south Kashmir. But over the past two year, it has lost many important commanders in a gunfight with the forces. Yet somehow the group managed to survive and came up with two more attacks in Srinagar and Pulwama.
Efforts to blacklist Jaish chief
India has time and again tried to blacklist his name in UN but China used its veto power and protected it. After the Pulwama attacks on 14th February china refused to take back his name unless mutual consensus between two nations.
Though UK, US and France condemn Pulwama attacks and support India again Masood Azhar, his whereabouts cannot be traced. It is still a mystery whether he was present at Balakot camp where India carried out the strike, is he ailing at an hospital in Rawalpindi or he is still in Bahawalpur in Pakistan. It is still a mystery as to where is Masood Azhar as of now. Is he dead or alive still remains a question?