Masood Azar in Pakistan

How Pakistan manipulated the news of Masood Azhar's presence in Afghanistan

The dreaded terrorist is wanted in India for the Parliament attack case, Pathankot airbase attack and many other terror strikes in the last two decades

How Pakistan manipulated the news of Masood Azhar's presence in Afghanistan
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar (File photo)

New Delhi: Stressing that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar is very much in Pakistan, sources at the Indian intelligence agencies told NewsDrum that Pakistan deliberately engineered a leak in an Afghan news organisation "Aamaj” that it made a request to Taliban authorities to locate and hand over Azhar.

The dreaded terrorist is wanted in India for the Parliament attack case, Pathankot airbase attack and many other terror strikes in the last two decades.

After the news about Islamabad’s request to Kabul on Azhar appeared in the Pashto language news organisation in Afghanistan, the Pakistan govt tipped off the news piece to Pakistan-based channel Geo News for a follow-up story.

With this, Pakistan did not want to send the impression that it has planted the news. Rather, it wanted the news story to appear to have come from Afghanistan and not planted by Pakistan.

This led to a statement by the Taliban Administration that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief was not in Afghanistan.

The Taliban's interim Afghan government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid also denounced Pakistan by saying that such organisations (JeM) can operate on Pakistan's soil, and even under official patronage. “We'll not allow anyone to use Afghanistan's soil against any other country,” he added.  

As per the Indian assessment, Pakistan has engineered this whole drama for the sake of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary slated to be held in Paris next month.

According to Pakistani media reports, a 15-member delegation of the FATF and its affiliate Asia Pacific Group made an on-site visit to Pakistan from Aug 29 to Sept 2 to verify Islamabad’s compliance with a 34-point action plan committed in 2018 when Pakistan was brought under the FATF grey list.

In a statement, the Pakistan foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the focus of the visit was to validate Pakistan’s high-level commitment and sustainability of reforms in the anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) reg­ime and that the meetings were held in “a constructive and positive atmosphere”.

“It’s not a coincidence that following the FATF team visit, news appeared that Masood Azhar was in Afghanistan,” said an Indian official who spoke to NewsDrum on the condition of anonymity.

According to an Indian intelligence assessment, Azhar was in Bahawalpur till the Taliban captured Kabul. The Pakistani spy agency ISI instructed Azhar to shift base to Afghanistan but it hasn’t happened so far as the open presence of Azhar in Afghanistan is not going help the Taliban cause in the world community, however sympathetic a section of Taliban may be towards the JeM chief.