Pakistan-based jihadi elements will continue to attack India despite Islamabad’s crackdown on terror groups operating from its soil, Saifullah Khalid, an operative of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) outfit, told Hindustan Times.
The revelation came at a time of heightened tension between the two neighbours over the terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base, blamed on the JeM and Al Rahmat Trust, the outlawed group’s front organisation couched as a charity.
“(Let me tell you whether) they (Pathankot attackers) belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al Rahmat or not, (but) they were definitely mujahideen. We have taken this action and we will continue to do so till Kashmir is freed and Indian Muslims get their legitimate rights,” Khalid said over the phone from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).
“…we will keep fighting for Kashmir’s freedom. We have to fight in all conditions … for the demolition of Babri masjid. We will keep fighting to take revenge for Gujarat’s Muslims. Our fight … we continue.”
He tried to parry pointed questions if the Pathankot attack was carried out by his outfit, though accepting that Pakistani terrorists were involved. “We accept that the Pathankot attack was carried out by mujahideen for Kashmir,” he said.
Audio clip of the interview with Jaish-e-Mohammed operative
Now associated with Al Rahmat, he was from the initial batches of Pakistani militants to fight in Jammu and Kashmir. Khalid was caught and repatriated to Pakistan in 2007 after he completed his prison term of 14 years in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal and Jodhpur jails.
The militant gave little weight to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s pledge to counter terror with an iron hand. “We are already banned. We believe that this ban will continue. We have no hope from our prime minister. We have to fight this war for Kashmir’s freedom. We will continue with our jihad because this is god’s wish,” he said.
Intelligence officials said Khalid’s attitude reflected the confidence of terrorists after years of patronage from the establishment, especially the Pakistani army that uses “non-state actors” to do their bidding and wage a proxy war in India.
The militant revealed that the JeM holds terror training camps in Balakot, a town in Mansehra district of Pakistan’s lawless Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province that is known to be major base of the outfit.
“We don’t have training camp in Bahawalpur. We hold congregations there. We keep shifting our training camps. If there is a ban (to hold camps there) we organise our training camps somewhere else. Till two days back, our markaz (centre) was in Balakot. Now it may be elsewhere.”
Indian intelligence agencies confirmed that the JeM has a regular camp in Balakot.
Khalid didn’t assign a number to volume of training camps run by the JeM. “It depends on requirement. (We hold camps) sometimes in tribal areas and sometimes here (in Muazaffarabad). We have this system running from 2001 and it will continue.”
Khalid’s phone number (+92 312 ***3020) was found along with 20 others on an online pamphlet of Al Rahmat, asking for donations for the charity. After Hindustan Times spoke to him on Saturday, first as a Lahore-based prospective donator and later revealing the true identity, almost all the numbers on the pamphlet have been switched off.
Intelligence officials and the Truecaller phone number tracking app confirmed Khalid’s identity.
“Saifullah Khalid, son of Sher Khan and resident of Mong in PoK, was in Kot Bhalwal jail. He was shifted to Jodhpur jail in December 2001. He is associated with the Jaish-e-Mohammed,” an official said.
During the 30-minute conversation, Khalid provided the phone number of Maulana Ashfaq Ahmed, brother-in-law of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, who was apparently detained by Pakistani authorities on Monday for the Pathankot attack.
Truecaller revealed that the number (+92 322 ***2001) was in the name of “Molana Ishfa”.