NEW DELHI: Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar was very much present in Pakistan when the country’s representatives were claiming to the delegates at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris that the terrorist had gone “missing”. In fact sources say that Masood Azhar is moving around Pakistan under the protection of the Pakistan army and the Pakistani spy agency, ISI.

Highly-placed government sources, who have direct knowledge of the matter, told this newspaper that Masood Azhar had not left Pakistan and his every movement was known to his handlers in GHQ, Rawalpindi. Masood Azhar has been moving around in multiple cavalcades.

“Masood and Hafiz Saeed are Pakistan’s two most potent assets in their fight against India and they can never be harmed. Saeed, who was sent to five-and-a-half-years of imprisonment, will be in a safe house, which will have all the amenities. The 51-year-old Masood, too, is being given medical assistance under the guidance of the ISI. So the question of Masood going missing is nothing but a ruse by Pakistan not to take even any cursory action against him,” a government source said.

And there are very old reasons for this “caring” attitude of the Pakistan army towards the Jaish chief and his family members.

Pakistan-based sources, who have been tracking Mohammad Masood Azhar, said that with the terrorist leader being unfit, it was Abdul Rauf Azhar, one of the four of his younger brothers, who was now more active in devising terror attacks and was looking after JeM’s resources.

Rauf’s “CV”, in many ways, is more “impressive” than Azhar’s. It was the 1974 born Rauf who had masterminded the hijack of the IC-814 Air India aircraft in December 1999, when he was 25 years old, as a result of which Azhar had to be freed by India.

With that one incident, Rauf’s “standing” with the terror groups grew exponentially.

His “importance” and following in the Pakistani army circles can be gauged from two incidents that have not been reported much. These two incidents also show how “indebted” the GHQ, literally, is to the Azhar family.

Rauf was the one who was flown in from Bahawalpur by the Pervez Musharraf government in July 2007 to hold negotiations with the clerics who had captured the Lal Masjid in Islamabad.

Two years later, when in October 2009, 10 terrorists entered the GHQ, Rawalpindi, and took soldiers hostage, it was Rauf again who was flown from Bahawalpur to Rawalpindi in a chartered aircraft to hold negotiations with the hostage takers.

These two incidents also reveal how intimate the relationship is between the Pakistan army and the terror groups.

“They have helped the Pakistan army in difficult times and hence the Pakistan army has nothing but reverence for them. Whenever any action has been taken or will be taken against them in the future, all will be cosmetic,” the source said.

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