Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar has called for jihadist groups to be allowed to escalate their operations against India, arguing that “a lack of decisive decision-making” could rob Pakistan of a “historic opportunity” to seize Kashmir. His appeal, published in the current issue of the Jaish weekly magazine al-Qalam, comes amidst reports of strains between Pakistan’s civilian government and military over the continued operations of anti-India jihadist groups from that country.
“If the government of Pakistan shows a little courage,” Azhar writes in a front-page article in the magazine, “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.”
Azhar directly addresses Pakistan’s policy establishment, arguing that the jihadist policies it backed in the 1990s had brought strategic benefits to the country. India had sought to build Akhand Bharat, Azhar goes on, but its hopes were degraded in the course of the jihad which left “every one of its limbs badly injured”.
“What remained of its military prowess was exposed in Pathankot and Uri,” he writes.
“India is putting pressure on Pakistan at this time. Looking at the situation in Kashmir, though, Pakistan should have been doing all this. Given that Kashmir is our jugular vein, we should have cancelled the SAARC conference ourselves, and cancelled the ceasefire on the Line of Control. In the last ninety days, how many Muslims have been martyred, and how many more injured?”
The article argues that jihadist operations in Kashmir have significantly eroded India’s military capacities. “Consider India before and after the jihad in Kashmir”, Azhar writes. “You will see a dramatic difference. In the course of this journey, which I have been an eyewitness to, I have seen India reduced from a serpent to an earthworm.”
Azhar’s article also addresses the Jaish’s Islamist constituency within Pakistan, reassuring it that the wheels of history are moving its way. “When we entered the tent of the jihadist movement,” he writes, “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.”
“We have watched as the jihad we befriended grew from a glowing ember into the sun; from a small spring into a river, and now, as it is about to become a great ocean,” he writes.
Following the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase in January, Pakistan’s government had acknowledged responsibility for the attacks lay with the Jaish-e-Muhammad, and promised action against the perpetrators. Though its Federal Investigation Agency was given access it sought to Indian witnesses, the agency has not shared the status of investigations with India. Key suspects, however, are reported to have evaded arrest, while Azhar remains at liberty.
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Pakistani daily Dawn reported this week that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting where Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry gave a presentation outlining international ire with Pakistan over its continued support for jihadist groups. Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, the report said, made clear that the government had been unable to act because of the support these groups enjoyed from the ISI.
In May, The Indian Express had revealed that a base thought to have been used to train the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack had been moved to a new location at Fort Maujgarh, in the Cholistan desert, 62 km from the Jaish-e-Muhammad headquarters in Bahawalpur. Later, in July, this newspaper also obtained a videotape showing Jaish-e-Muhammad cadre openly collecting funds for jihad outside mosques in Karachi, as police personnel looked on.