Even though Jaish is forbidden in Pakistan and its chief Masood Azhar Alvi has been detained in an Islamabad house, after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif admitted that it carried out the terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase, the group is still operating with growing impunity.
On the last Friday of January, the crowd gathered at the Jamia Masjid Usmania in the memory of the man whose obituary records a single name, who was killed somewhere in India and buried in a grave without a headstone, Tahir. The cleric who led the gathering said, “Islam is a world power and cannot be destroyed, whoever tries to destroy it will be destroyed himself. Jihad is the most important obligation of our faith.”
As the terrorist group’s house journal al-Qalam, identifies him, ‘General of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, Mufti General of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar’, has been holding similar rallies across Pakistan, raising funds and openly recruiting new cadre for the past three months. The Jaish has emerged centre stage on the jihadi landscape even when Islamabad seeks commitment to act against terrorism by detaining Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed last month. Even though Jaish is forbidden in Pakistan and its chief Masood Azhar Alvi has been detained in an Islamabad house, after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif admitted that it carried out the terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase, the group is still operating with growing impunity.
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According to a report recorded in the Yazman Tehsil of Bahawalpur, the Jaish ideologue Abdul Rasheed delivered a Friday lecture, where he introduced the organisation to the 400-strong congregation. The cleric in the lecture talked about the “painful story of the sufferings of the Muslim nation” and called on the people to join jihad to protect the people of the faith. The report goes on to say that- ‘The lecture had a strange impact on the people and many people gave active support to jihad.’
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According to experts, the long leash given to the Jaish could be part of a deliberate strategy by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. Ayesha Siddiqa a noted scholar says, “The Jaish is is not as publicity-oriented as the Lashkar and over the years managed to stay aloof from popularity contests among the jihadis, which is why it has managed to acquire the reputation of being India and Kashmir-focused.”
There are several reasons for why the revival of Jaish might have consequences for Pakistan itself. The organisation turned on military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and were involved in attempts to assassinate him. Mati-ur-Rahman Arain, Muhammad Haroon Akbar Khan and Muhammad Tayyab were all listed in Punjab Police records for 2011 as Jaish-e-Muhammad operatives involved in an attack on a Pakistan Air Force bus, as well as other strikes.
The disappearance of Jaish in the recent lists of terrorist activities that has been maintained by the Punjab Police in Pakistan is a sign that Masood Azhar is believed to have got rid of all anti-Pakistan jihadists from his organisation.