Indian counterterror agencies have confirmed information that Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and the man on top of India’s “most wanted” list, is living under the highest security in a virtually bomb-proof house behind the terror group’s Bahawalpur headquarters at Markaz-e-Usman-o-Ali, Railway Link Road, in Pakistan, intelligence officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
According to a dossier submitted by India to Pakistan after the Jaish-organised Pulwama attack last February, one of the mobile numbers found during the investigations into the JeM’s 2016 attack on the Pathankot airbase was directly linked to the Bahawalpur terror factory.
Masood Azhar has three other known addresses: Kausar Colony, Bahawalpur; Madarassa Bilal Habshi, Bannu, Khyber-Paktunkhwa; and Madrassa Masjid-e-Luqman, Lakki Marwat in the same province.
This information becomes more relevant in light of recent reports that Pakistan may tell the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary meet, which started on Sunday in Paris, that Masood Azhar is missing. While Pakistan has sentenced Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed and his aide to five-and-a-half years in prison for terror funding just a week before the crucial plenary meeting, it is criticised for not taking enough action against the Mumbai 2008 attacks mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Masood Azhar.
According to officials in Indian intelligence agencies and public statements of Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Azhar is suffering from a life-threatening spine aliment, and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar Alvi has taken over as the de facto emir of JeM.
Alvi, as operational head, was responsible for the attacks at Pulwama and Pathankot, according to Indian officials. While the Pathankot attack was designed to break the emerging détente between Indian and Pakistani leaders post Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impromptu December 25, 2015, visit to Lahore, the Pulwama attack was retaliation for the deaths of Alvi’s kin, Talha Rasheed and Usman Haider, at the hands of Indian security forces in Kashmir.
Masood Azhar runs the deadly terror group like a private limited, with his family members in leadership roles and radicalised youth serving as cannon fodder, the officials cited above added. One brother, Mohammed Tariq Anwar, is the commander of Askari Affairs or jihad; another, Ibrahim Azhar, one of the IC-814 hijackers, supervises operations in Afghanistan; a third, Maulana Mohammed Ammar, is in charge of Al Qalam magazine and trust; and a fourth brother, Mohammed Jahangir Akbar Talha, aka Talha Saif, is in charge of the Jaish’s youth wing.
There is also Muhammed Yusuf Azhar, Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law, who heads training at the Jaba Top camp in Balakot. Under him come the various launching-pad commanders and other officials. According to information accessed by HT, the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir launching pad commander is Mufti Asghar Kashmiri, while Qari Zarrar launches jihadists to target India across the Jammu region. The preaching or religious indoctrination wing is headed by Maulana Qamar Zaman Siddiqui, and the instruction wing or armed training wing is headed by Maulana Ashfarqullah.
Under joint leadership of Rauf Asghar and Yusuf Azhar, the Jaish’s Al Rehmat trust is run by Mufti Masood Illyas Kashmiri, defence and administration by Maulana Kamran Rashid, media by Masood Azhar’s brother Ammar, traditional Islamic medicine by Qari Aby Muhammed, education and training by Mujahid Abbas, and the students wing by Maulana Qutubuddin — all showing there is bureaucracy even in terror, an Indian intelligence official said.