Terrorist Masood Azhar has resurfaced in Bahawalpur and has started giving incendiary speeches. He is also meeting youngsters who want to join the Jaish-e-Mohammed.


New Delhi: Amidst claims of Pakistan government taking action against the Jaish-e-Mohammed cadre, reports from Pakistan’s Bahawalpur suggest that the Jaish chief, Masood Azhar has “resurfaced” and has resumed his daily “religious” discourse, which mostly comprises anti-India and anti-America rhetoric. Ground-based sources have also added that the number of people gathering to listen to Masood Azhar has increased manifold ever since the Pulwama attack that killed over 40 CRPF personnel on 14 February.

Although Pakistan has claimed that it is not aware of the whereabouts of Azhar and that he is “very unwell”, Masood, according to sources, has resurfaced in Bahawalpur and has resumed his daily routine, which includes giving incendiary speeches and meeting youngsters who want to join the Jaish.

Post the Pulwama attack, he had gone underground with the assistance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan army.

The “resumption” of normal routine by Masood Azhar is being attributed to China publicly supporting him at the United Nations Security Council, despite the entire international community wanting to take action against Azhar. The move by China has not just emboldened the Pakistani government, but also other terror groups operating from Pakistani soil.

Earlier this week, the United States, supported by France and the United Kingdom, moved a draft resolution in the UN Security Council to blacklist Azhar. The fate of this resolution will become clear on 3 April, that is Wednesday, when it comes up for discussion.

Indian officials said that if China again decided to come out in support of Azhar, the perception that China was supporting terrorists on behalf of Pakistan would become stronger in the eyes of other countries.

This is the “first time” that the US, the UK and France have moved a draft resolution directly in the Security Council to designate Azhar as an international terrorist. The previous attempts were to list proposals in the Sanctions Committee of the Council. The move comes two weeks after China put a hold on a proposal to list Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the Council.

Sources said that in his last few public addresses since Pulwama, Azhar spoke of how some of the overground Jaish operatives were facing “difficulty” due to the action of the Pakistan government and how the present situation was like a “test” for the cadre. “He reminded his audience of how he was treated in Indian jails and how, compared to that, the ‘faithful’ were not facing anything in Pakistan and that they should be prepared to face even more difficult circumstances,” a source said.

In his last week’s discourse, Azhar expressed his happiness over the “marriage” of two Pakistani Hindu girls—who were abducted and converted to Islam—with Muslim men and said that this should become a regular practice. He accused the Pakistan government of interfering in the matter rather than facilitating such “unions”.

According to sources, the number of people, especially in the age group of 18-25 years, who gathered to listen to his “discourse”, has increased post the Pulwama attack. “He has resumed his routine of giving discourse and the number of youngsters who gather to hear him has increased,” the source said.

It is clear that the recent developments that started with the Pulwama bombing and nearly brought the two nuclear countries on the brink of war has not affected Masood Azhar.

Indian security officials say that Azhar has a pathological hatred for India and wants to wipe out its existence, something which also attracts a large section of radicalised youths to his fold.

“Unless and until he is neutralised, he will remain a ticking time bomb for both India and Pakistan. We have explicitly conveyed to Pakistan that it cannot escape responsibility for what Masood Azhar’s actions. There is no ambiguity on this issue. Masood Azhar is not someone who is concerned about the international ramifications of his action. If he repeats anything like the Pulwama attack, it will be Pakistan which will have to answer on the matter along with Masood Azhar,” said a senior officer with a security agency.