By SJA Jafri
ISLAMABAD: Amid speculation that Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) Chief Masood Azhar may have been killed in the IAF strike on Balakot which was denied by Jaish intelligence sources told the Pakistan Army had shifted him from its Rawalpindi base hospital to a Jaish camp in Goth Ghanni in Bahawalpur at around 7.30pm on Sunday.
Shortly after Azhar was reportedly moved, Jaish lashed out at the Imran Khan government in a statement, accusing it of bowing to pressure from India and the international community.
Azhar is known to have a renal ailment and was being treated at Rawalpindi Army hospital for several months.
Following the terror attack on a CRPF convoy that killed 40 personnel, Azhar was provided 10 Pakistan Special Service Group commandos as additional security cover, sources said.
In its statement on Sunday, Jaish said Azhar was alive and doing well. It also admitted that IAF had struck at its training centre in Balakot, but denied that it suffered any casualties. “India’s fighter jets, with Israeli guided missiles, attacked us but Allah’s angels diverted them and protected us,” Jaish said.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Jaish-e-Muhammed said the Imran government had begun to follow the policies of former President General Pervez Musharraf. Following 9/ 11, Musharraf had cracked down on several terror groups after the US had told Pakistan to take a clear stand against terrorism.
“First they released the Indian pilot and now they have decided to crack down on our seminaries. They are being soft towards the enemy (India) but tough on their own people (Jaish),” the statement said. The outfit also asked its cadres to be ready for migration and a new struggle.
Rumours about Azhar’s death had swirled on Sunday. An anonymous, unconfirmed blog post claimed that Azhar was present at the Balakot seminary on the night of the strike and he and Colonel Salim of the ISI were critically injured. According to the post, Azhar died on Saturday. Other reports suggested that Azhar was last in Balakot in October after the death of his nephew who was killed by Indian security forces.
Last week, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had confirmed to CNN that Azhar was indeed in Pakistan but he was unwell. “He is in Pakistan, according to my information he is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house,” Qureshi said.
The report about Azhar’s death came amid a renewed bid by India to get the UN Security Council to put sanctions on him by the 1267 committee. France, which took over the presidentship of the UNSC this month, has co-sponsored a resolution along with the US and the UK. China has blocked this in the past and has until March 13 to make a decision. The timing of the report led many to suspect whether it was meant to deflect the focus away from Azhar.