Jaish-E-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Ashgar are under the preventive custody of Pakistan government, specifically the ISI, which has been keeping a close eye on the activities of the two individuals, who have been accused of masterminding the Pathankot attack, sources close to the two individuals have told The Sunday Guardian.
These sources, who interact with both Azhar and Ashgar very frequently, came in contact with this newspaper during the last two months when this correspondent was trying to speak to Azhar in wake of the Pathankot attack.
According to these sources, Azhar had earlier agreed to speak to this newspaper, but was later forced to renege after the ISI came to know of it and asked him to lie low.
A very senior functionary of Jaish, with whom this correspondent has been in touch, stated that the Jaish chief will only be able to speak if the ISI allows him.
The functionary stated that Azhar was kept under a tight surveillance and his activities were being monitored by the ISI. “He is not under any arrest as such; he writes for his newspaper, gives sermons, meets visitors but he has to keep the ISI informed about his activity. He had earlier shown his inclination to reply to your questions, but now he is reluctant as the ISI officials are not in favour (of him giving an interview),” the functionary said.
Azhar’s brother Ashgar, who, unlike his brother, does not appear publicly very frequently, had earlier conveyed that he will not be replying to the questions.
Azhar, these sources said, is very sensitive about his image and keeps a close eye on the news articles that are published about him internationally. Unlike Hafeez Saeed, the chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who is accused of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Azhar, does not carry out any “social work” and prefers moving in and around Bahawalpur city, which is his home town. He also publishes a newspaper, Al-Qalam where his “teachings” are published.
Hafeez Saeed, in an interview to this newspaper in February, the first to any Indian media, had tried to shred his image of a terrorist and stated that he was not involved in the Mumbai attack. However, Azhar has so far refused to come out of his hiding. According to officials who have been following the jihadi activist in Pakistan, Hafeez Saeed has managed to reinvent himself as a “social worker” through his other affiliate organisation , the Jamaat-ud-Dawa which has a large following and has in fact grown much “larger” than Masood Azhar.