Not seen any terror activities of Masood Azhar, says Pakistan lawmaker
HT spoke to three members of the National Assembly (MNAs) from the Bahawalpur region in Pakistan where headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad is located.india Updated: Nov 05, 2017 23:21 IST
Pakistan’s Bahawalpur parliamentarians don’t see outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief, Masood Azhar as a terrorist and are reluctant to talk about him.
Hindustan Times spoke to three of five members of the National Assembly (MNAs) of the region, a few days after China blocked a United Nation’s resolution seeking to tag Azhar as a ‘global terrorist.’
“India might view him as a terrorist but I have not seen any terror activities. It is not so easy to declare anybody a terrorist. India should focus on the terrorism it is unleashing on the Kashmiris,” a members of the National Assembly said.
The sprawling headquarters of the terror outfit is located in Bahawalpur but Tariq Bashir Cheema, an MNA, told HT over the telephone that he has neither seen Azhar nor does he know where the Jaish headquarters are located.
“India might view him as a terrorist but I have not seen any terror activities. It is not so easy to declare anybody a terrorist. India should focus on the terrorism it is unleashing on the Kashmiris,’’ Cheema said.
Pakistan’s former advisor to the prime minister on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, had confirmed that one of the calls made by terrorists who attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January 2016, had been traced to the Jaish headquarters in Bahawalpur but Cheema said, “come to Bahawalpur and help me find the headquarters. I have heard of Azhar from the newspapers but have never seen him.”
All five MNAs belong to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) but like most Pakistani politicians, they are wary of discussing terror groups — known to have deep connections with the powerful army and intelligence agency ISI.
Another MNA, Mian Najeebuddin Awaisi, was willing to discuss India-Pakistan relations in the context of China blocking the resolution, saying it should not impact ties between the neighbours but refused to discuss Masood Azhar.
“I cannot speak to you about him over the phone,’’ he said and disconnected the call. Awaisi did not answer subsequent calls.
Makhdoom Gillani, the third MNA, HT called, did not want to speak to an Indian journalist.
Cheema wanted India to forget about Azhar, who, he said, had been released in exchange for hijacked passengers in Kandahar in December 1999.
The JeM was born after Azhar’s release and is responsible for several fidayeen attacks in Kashmir.
Pakistan had sent a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to India after the Pathankot attack. It included an officer from the ISI.
A Pakistani daily, quoting unnamed JIT officers had reported that the team had concluded that India had ‘staged’ the Pathankot attack. The India-Pakistan dialogue has been in the deep freeze since Pathankot and the subsequent attack at an army camp in Uri.