Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar has positioned himself as the leading anti-India voice in Pakistan, emboldened by the lack of any action against him by either the Pakistan government or the US administration. He is encouraging more and more illiterate youths to go to India and carry out terrorist activities in Kashmir in the name of jihad.

In his latest anti-India rhetoric, Azhar not only appealed to youths to enter India and carry out attacks, he also rebuked those who are taking part in the “jihad” in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) of “promoting their politics or for buying cars”.

His allegation that Pakistanis are using the jihad to further their own vested interests is understood to be a pot-shot at the chief of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Hafiz Saeed, and also the latter’s son Talah and son-in-law Khalid Walid, who are contesting the forthcoming Pakistan general elections. Saeed and his men have a more active presence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir than Azhar.

Security experts, who have been following the terrorist groups in Pakistan, say that Saeed’s efforts to become a “mainstream politician”, while he continues to carry out attacks in Kashmir, have not gone down well with the ultra-religious Masood Azhar who does not have any political aspirations and has more radical, illiterate followers than Saeed’s LeT, which boasts of having educated and computer savvy youths running the set-up.

Last week, Saeed fielded 265 candidates for the national and provincial polls in Pakistan that are slated for 25 July with the aim to make Pakistan a “citadel of Islam”. Despite carrying a $10 million US bounty on his head, Saeed, guarded by Pakistani military personnel, openly canvasses for his candidates. Saeed’s candidates are contesting on the platform of a little known “dormant” political entity, Allah-u-Akbar Tehreek (AAT).

According to the officials, Masood, who had “gone silent” temporarily under instructions from his ISI handlers, has now again started giving anti-India speeches in which he asks young men to join Jaish and carry out jihad in Kashmir.

“His speeches are very popular among Pakistani youths most of whom are illiterate, unemployed and do not have any aims in life. When they hear speeches that promise to give their lives some sort of meaning, they readily join the Jaish,” an official said.

In his latest address played in madrasas in and around Bahawalpur and the Jaish’s training camps, Masood said “Kashmir jihad is a sacred movement and not an emotional slogan and some people are in jihad to promote their politics. Many in Azad Kashmir are using it as a political slogan,” he said.

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