The basic premise of creating JeM was to have two `weapons` of state instrument –to carry out acts of terrorism against other sovereign countries, with the advantage of deniability. It also helped to hoodwink the world in many ways. If and when one group came into limelight and there was pressure to take action, unleash the second group and divert attention from the first…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) is an integral part of Pakistan Army’s offensive policy against India. It has been so since its creation in 2000, after the Kandahar hijacking. Infact, the hijacking was masterminded by the army to force India to release JeM leader, Masood Azhar from the Indian prison. The audacity with which Azhar, after his release, held a press conference to announce the birth of JeM was in itself a clear sign of the patronage of the army, and the state.
The basic premise of creating JeM was to have two `weapons` of state instrument –to carry out acts of terrorism against other sovereign countries, with the advantage of deniability. It also helped to hoodwink the world in many ways. If and when one group came into limelight and there was pressure to take action, unleash the second group and divert attention from the first.
The first weapon, established long ago during the fading days of the Afghan Jihad, was Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). The plan was simple in its diabolism. The LeT was tasked to spearhead a systematic terrorist campaign in India to establish a network and operational base in the country. The group’s seed money came from al Qaeda.
Although the army trained and equipped the group with weapons and logistics support, the Hafiz Saeed group could not achieve its goal in India. The LeT then changed its tact under the guidance of the army and transformed itself into a mercenary front for the army in its offensive campaigns against India.
With this failure, the Generals decided to open a new terrorist outfit and they wanted Masood Azhar to lead the new front of terrorism. He has all along been a loyal agent. He has been instrumental in helping the army to network with the Taliban. Azhar had studied at the infamous Binori mosque as was the Taliban founder-leader Mullah Omar. Many of the Taliban leaders were Azhar’s colleagues or seniors. Even today, Azhar has some influence with the Taliban and hence has been a conduit for Pakistan Army in controlling and managing its relationship with the terrorist entity.
While the world, by and large, has been focussing on LeT, because of its role in the Mumbai attack of November 2008, Pakistan Army has been quietly building up the infrastructure of JeM. The Azhar-led group is headquartered in Bahawalpur, not far from the Indian border. Although Azhar has less influence in Punjab, unlike Hafiz Saeed, he has a stronger support in areas around Karachi, Peshawar and other areas where the Taliban has greater influence. Azhar, more importantly, has good support in Afghanistan too, in the Taliban controlled areas.
In the years since 2008, Azhar has managed to, with the help of Pakistan Army, to expand his terrorist empire by building several seminaries and acquiring properties in different parts of Pakistan, and all very quietly. There has been little written about him or his group or his growing clout among the Generals.
With Saeed coming under heavy scrutiny and fire from the international community, the Generals have been planning to unleash JeM. The Pulwama attack is part of that planning. They did a similar thing back in the early 2000s when the Indian forces had pulverised Pakistan’s proxy war with great and determined effort. The Generals used the JeM `fodder` to launch suicide attacks in Kashmir to light up the extinguished fire of terrorism in the region It is what they are planning to do now when Indian Kashmir is returning to normalcy while dissent and revolt has been brewing in areas of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan Army.