Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammad founder sought by India for the Pathankot airbase attack, has threatened retaliation if Pakistan shuts down terrorist groups operating against India.
“I have prepared an army that adores death. To uproot this army is not in the power of our enemies. God willing, this army will not let our enemies celebrate, nor occasion for anyone to miss my presence,” Azhar wrote in the Peshawar-based jihadi magazine al-Qalam’s issue dated January 26.
In his first comments on the fallout of the Pathankot attack, Azhar also assailed the Pakistani leadership: “Their actions against mosques, seminaries and jihad are dangerous for the integrity of the country itself.”
Last month, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said his country had received “actionable intelligence” on the Pathankot perpetrators, and promised early action. But newspapers there reported Monday that investigators had been unable to locate the owners of five cellphone numbers used to coordinate the strike.
“The rulers of our country are sad that we have disturbed their friends,” Azhar wrote in the article, in an evident reference to Nawaz Sharif . “They wish to arise on the Day of Judgment to be judged as friends of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (former Prime Minister) Atal Behari Vajpayee.”
Azhar claims that “acting on the orders of others, Pakistan’s rulers have reduced their own country into a heap of fire and explosive. Every single one of them comes, spreads fire and then escapes abroad”.
Said to have been held soon after the Pathankot attack in what Pakistan’s government describes as “protective custody”, Azhar has been charged by India with several major terrorist attacks, including the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar in 1999 and the attack on Parliament House in 2001.
And in his first published comments on his incarceration by Pakistan in 2002, when General Pervez Musharraf ordered him held to defuse a military build-up by India, Azhar said he can only be held at a time of “divine predestination”.
“Many, times I actually attacked and chased arrest, only for it to escape from my grasp,” he claimed.
“When arrest finally came, it did not leave me even at my own home. For eight months, arrest lived with me in my home, where I could see even my aging parents only twice a week. This was though I did not have any case registered against me in any of the police stations in entire Pakistan, and I had never even imagined, let alone planned, doing harm to my country,” he wrote.
“I got only one answer when I asked why I was in prison: ‘What can we do, we have world pressure for your arrest’”.
He urged his followers not to be afraid of incarceration: “Pervez Musharraf was fond of keeping me imprisoned, but he was also arrested and imprisoned. He continues to lead a life of quasi-imprisonment. It is akin to worship to have been arrested because of your service to Islam, and every Muslim should be mentally ready for it, because, all the Holy Prophets and holy Companions have faced imprisonment”.
In his years in Indian jails before his release in the 1999 Indian Airlines hostages-for-prisoners swap, Azhar said, he completed the fourth volume of an exegetical work on jihad.
The new issue of al-Qalam also contains an article on the Pathankot strike by Naved Masood Hashmi, a cleric well known in jihadi circles for a 1998 biography of slain al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden. “If Indian rulers do not agree to free the Kashmiri nation based on the United Nations resolutions… these attacks would surely continue,” he wrote.