Jaish chief restricted to his headquarters


LAHORE: The Pakistani authorities have placed strict restrictions on the movement of Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), by confining him to his multi-storied concrete compound in the Model Town area of Bahawalpur.

Well placed official sources say Masood Azhar’s activities have been restricted in the wake of Indian government’s recent demand to hand him over to New Delhi. Prime Minister’s Advisor on Interior Rahman Malik said in Islamabad last week that India has given to Pakistan a list of three persons – Maulana Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, for their immediate extradition. The official sources say India has sought the arrest and extradition of Masood Azhar while citing a 1989 agreement signed by the Director General of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which binds both the agencies to collaborate with each other, to trace out the Most Wanted terrorists and criminals and hand them over to their respective counterpart.

Maulana Masood Azhar is wanted by the Indian CBI for his alleged involvement in the 2001 attacks on the Indian parliament which brought two nuclear armed South Asian neighbours to the brink of war. As a matter of fact, it is not for the first time that his movements have been restricted by the Pakistani authorities. Every time the Indian government demands his extradition, he is confined to his headquarters in Bahawalpur which is a building under construction. Azhar had been serving time in an Indian jail for Kashmir-related militancy but had to be released by the Indian government in 2000 in exchange for passengers of an India airplane which had been hijacked by some Kashmiri militants and taken to Kabul. Soon after his release, he had discarded the Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM) to launch the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Since then, having gone through many ups and downs, especially in the wake of the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and the 2003 suicide attacks on General Musharraf in Rawalpindi, the Jaish had been renamed as Khudamul Islam (KuI) and reorganized under the command of Mufti Abdul Rauf, the younger brother of Masood Azhar. The US State Department had designated the Jaish as a foreign terrorist organization in December 2001, making the Musharraf regime slap a ban on the outfit in January 2002. December 29, 2001 was the only time Masood Azhar was formally arrested by the Pakistani authorities following the Parliament attacks. However, a three-member Review Board of the Lahore High Court ordered his release on December 14, 2002.

The second time he had to face the wrath of the establishment was in 2003 in the aftermath of the Rawalpindi suicide attacks on Musharraf, after it transpired that Mohammad Jameel, one of the two suicide attackers who tried to assassinate the first commando president of Pakistan, belonged to the Jaish. However, Massod tried to clear his position by maintaining that the bomber had already defected to the Jaish’s dissident group – Jamaatul Furqaan, led by Maulana Abdul Jabbar alias Maulana Umer Farooq. However, the Maulana from Bahawalpur soon fell out of favour with the establishment in the wake of American allegations about his al-Qaeda links and because of the US belief that he, along with some other jehadi leaders, had been providing logistical support to fugitive al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

As a matter of fact, following the January 2002 kidnapping and the subsequent murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl by Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Omar, close aide of Masood Azhar, the Americans had sought the custody of the Jaish chief, saying the US department of justice wanted to file charges against him for his involvement in the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 (with an American citizen Jeanne Moore aboard). The American authorities had claimed that under the American law, they had the right to investigate crimes against their citizens committed anywhere in the world.

However, the Musharraf regime had turned down the US demand, saying he was not a hijacker and his incarceration in India had been illegal. “Otherwise, he would have been tried and convicted by the Indian courts while he was behind the bars”. In other words, Masood Azhar could not be accused of any crime.


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