Masood Azhar unwell, brother runs the show at Jaish


Masood Azhar unwell, brother runs the show at JaishNEW DELHI: With Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar’s deteriorating medical condition preventing him from moving around or being actively involved in operational matters, it is his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar who is really in charge of the terror outfit, top intelligence sources here told TOI.

Azhar, designated a ‘global terrorist’ by the United Nations and now also banned as an ‘individual terrorist’ by India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, is suffering from renal failure and, as per intelligence reports, is mostly confined to his quarters.

Sources here said he is currently based at one of the two key Jaish facilities in Bahawalpur, Pakistan — Markaz Usman-O-Ali and Markaz Subhan Allah.

“Masood Azhar is too unwell to oversee day-to-day operations of Jaish-e-Mohammed. His confinement to a well-guarded Jaish facility in Bahawalpur is possibly linked to his serious medical condition and the need to ensure his security in the aftermath of the IAF air strikes on Jaish terror camp in Balakot in February,” an intelligence functionary said. Prior to the IAF strikes, cadre selected for more “active” duties were sent to Balakot for terror training.

Sources indicated Azhar was never an operations man but the prime motivator for Jaish who could turn “jihadi” recruits into committed fidayeen with his fiery sermons. His recorded sermons continue to do the job, even as planning and execution of operations is left to his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar, the architect of the IC-814 hijacking who had secured the release of Masood Azhar, among others, in a hostage swap. Asghar also delivers Friday sermons.

“Asghar is the real man to watch out for,” said an officer of the Indian security establishment. Just 45 years old, he is de-facto chief of Jaish and hatches terror conspiracies, organises the resources and oversees their execution. He is also known to personally visit Jaish training camps, including the Balakot facility before it was hit by IAF, to motivate fighters.

While Asghar was named by the Pakistan interior ministry among 44 under-observation members of proscribed organisations taken into custody in March 2019, sources said his “detention” has been more of “protective custody”. Inputs suggest Asghar continues to move around with armed escort in Pakistan. “He meets other Jaish functionaries regularly to plan terror manoeuvres. In fact, recent reports indicate that he has been instructed by ISI to escalate Jaish activities in J&K and beyond in view of abrogation of Article 370,” said the officer.

Asghar has already proved his credentials as likely successor to Masood Azhar with his successful execution of major terror attacks in India, including the strike on Pathankot airbase in January 2016, the hit at Nagrota Army camp in November 2016 and, most recently, the Pulwama terror attack. Asghar had in fact owned up the Pathankot attack in a message uploaded on Jaish-linked website ‘rangonoor’ and warned of more lethal strikes ahead.