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India wants him,Pak uses Jaish chief to defuse mosque tension

Barely a few months after he went into hiding somewhere in North-West Pakistan to escape Indian diplomatic pressure...

Barely a few months after he went into hiding somewhere in North-West Pakistan to escape Indian diplomatic pressure in the wake of the Mumbai blasts,Jaish-e-Mohammed head Maulana Masood Azhar is believed to have returned to his base in Bahawalpur. And according to information with India,his return was facilitated after he helped the Pakistan government settle a fierce dispute brewing in Karachi’s Binori Mosque.

This was another serious addition to a series of indications from Pakistan that it was not serious about Indian concerns given the way anti-India outfits are crawling back to existence. Prompted by all of this and the latest status on Azhar,India has conveyed a strong message to US National Security Advisor Gen James Jones on Friday that Pakistan was being selective in its fight against terrorism.

It’s learnt that Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor briefed Jones on camps active across the Line of Control and gave the Indian Army’s assessment that the kind of infiltration witnessed some months back could not have been possible without support of the Pakistan Army. Jones did not contest this but did feel that top military officials of both sides ought to speak to each other more often to build more confidence.

But it is the circumstances leading to Azhar’s return to Bahawalpur that has frustrated the Indian security establishment. According to reliable sources,it started in March-April with the powerful Pak Deobandis in Binori Mosque deciding to take over mosques belonging to Barelwis in the area.

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This provoked clashes with the MQM taking to the streets,prompting government intervention. While one section of the Binori Mosque did relent largely due to the efforts of Maulana Fazlur Rehman,sources said,a smaller but more radical section was furious with the decision to give back the mosques to the Barelwis.

While the mosques were vacated,the split inside Binori grew deeper and was becoming volatile because the radical group had sympathizers and supporters among jehadi outfits willing to lend a hand. As the situation worsened last month,sources said,Pakistan agencies felt the need to reach out to Azhar who has a strong influence on radical sections among the Pak Deobandis in the Binori mosque.

Azhar is an alumni of the mosque where he even met Mullah Omar. In fact,after being released following the IC-814 hijack,Azhar announced the formation of the JeM from Binori Mosque. He,of course,made Bahawalpur his base and has been staying in well-guarded premises in Model Town area of the city. He was whisked away after the Mumbai attacks as India increased pressure for him to be handed back.

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It’s learnt that Azhar obliged the Pakistani authorities and was taken to Karachi where he addressed the radical groups,asking them not to fight among themselves. His appeal worked as the radical group backed off and the issue stands somewhat settled for the moment. Initial inputs suggest he was then taken to Islamabad and has now returned to Bahawalpur. The Pakistan Army’s offensive in the West,sources said,had made it difficult for him to accept the hospitality of other jehadi groups close to the Taliban in the area.

The latest information with India is that security has suddenly increased outside his Bahawalpur premises with neighbours observing heightened activity of security personnel. New Delhi is also not certain whether these movements could have been possible without the knowledge of US operators in the area.

India has moved a proposal to sanction Azhar under the Al Qaida and Taliban Sanctions resolution 1267 in the United Nations.

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China has put a hold on it,delaying matters while India is mustering more diplomatic support to counter Pak and Chinese efforts. Azhar is also expected to figure prominently in the talks that foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are scheduled to have before the NAM Summit in Egypt.

First published on: 28-06-2009 at 05:20:30 am
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