Azhar will be allowed to appear in public once the FATF meet scheduled for 21-26 February 2021 ends.

 

NEW DELHI: Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar is recuperating under the care of the Pakistan government in Central Prison Mianwali, Pakistani Punjab, The Sunday Guardian has learnt through sources close to him.

It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan had earlier informed the global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that Azhar, who was listed as a designated terrorist by UNSC1267 Committee on 1 May 2019, had gone “missing” and hence it was not possible to take any kind of action against him.

According to sources, the ISI, which takes care of Azhar’s overall well-being, has placed Pakistani army officers to handle his security. These army officers are not known to Indian agencies to ensure that his security is not compromised in any way.

Azhar, who is suffering from multiple ailments, will be allowed to appear in public, these sources said, once the FATF meet scheduled for 21-26 February 2021 ends.

Azhar, sources said, has been assured that with the FATF taking a “considerate” view in Pakistan’s case, the country will be out of “danger” of being blacklisted when the February 2021 plenary ends, after which he can resume his daily routine. As of today, he is allowed visitors, whose identity is cleared by the men in uniform and then by his close associates who, too, are under “arrest” with him in the same prison.

Pakistan had, in February 2020, on the eve of the Paris plenary, informed FATF that Azhar had gone “missing”, which, to the surprise of many counter-terrorism experts, was accepted as a gospel truth by the FATF.

The FATF in that plenary, while keeping Pakistan on the grey list, had stated that Pakistan had addressed 14 out of the 27 action items it was asked to do to tackle financing of terror groups, while “strongly” urging it to meet all the 27 requirements by June 2020. In the next October 2020 plenary, the FATF stated that Pakistan had addressed 21 of the 27 action items while asking it to fulfil all the requirements by February 2021.

The FATF had placed Pakistan on its “grey list” in June 2018, giving the country a 15-month deadline to implement its 27-point action plan, a deadline which ended in September 2019.

The FATF in its response to queries of The Sunday Guardian on the issue said: “The FATF is a policy-making body. The FATF does not take a role in law enforcement matters, investigations or prosecutions of individuals or entities. We, therefore, cannot comment on this matter, nor on any internal discussions, which remain confidential.”

Pakistan was first placed on the grey list in 2012, where it stayed until 2015. Pakistan requires the support of 12 of FATF’s 39 members to come out of the grey list

It is now a matter of official record that Abdul Rauf Asghar, the younger brother of Masood Azhar, is handling the terror group’s activities. While Masood Azhar gives a “larger target” for the Jaish, it is Asghar who decides how these targets are to be taken out. Asghar taking over the Jaish’s affairs, is not an unexpected development. It was Asghar 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 Pakistani soldiers hostage, it was Asghar again who was flown from Bahawalpur to Rawalpindi in a chartered aircraft to hold negotiations with the hostage takers.