JeM hit the Pakistani army where it hurt the most by targeting its chief and engineering dissents within its ranks a year after it was banned following the attack on the Indian Parliament
The windshield of Pervez Musharraf ‘s armoured car was damaged as two suicide bombers rammed their explosive-laden cars into his motorcade in Rawalpindi on December 25, 2003. The military ruler escaped unhurt. But the second attempt on his life in 11 days shook Musharraf beyond belief.
The abortive bids to cripple Pakistan army’s command and control forced Musharraf to turn to his trusted aide, Rawalpindi Corps CommanderAshfaq Pervez Kayani, to probe the conspiracy behind it. His worst fears were confirmed as Kayani sifted through the evidence and concluded the bids on his boss’s life were an inside job, leading to the arrest of 56 Pakistani soldiers.
Five of the soldiers, including air force technician Adnan Rasheed, were sentenced to death as they were found guilty of sharing information with banned Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) for Musharraf ‘s assassination.
Rasheed, whom Taliban freed after attacking a prison in Bannu in 2012, confessed to having been trained at a JeM camp. It was also revealed that explosives used in the first assassination bid were stolen from an air force station.
JeM had hit the army where it hurt the most by targeting its chief and engineering dissents within its ranks a year after it was banned following the attack on the Indian Parliament. The crackdown on the outfit that followed has clearly yielded little as JeM proved its lethality by attacking the Pathankot airbase.
JeM’s history should make it easier for PM Nawaz Sharif to make good on his promise of “decisive” action against the Pathankot attack perpetrators. His assurance of cooperation after two meetings with top officials, including Army chief Raheel Sharif and National Security Adviser Nasir Janjua, appear to be the steps in this direction.
Groups like JeM are also covered under Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP), which was formulated after an all-party meeting in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre to root out terrorism of all hues.
The anti-Taliban operations intensified as part of the NAP have yielded significant gains and led to a major decline in violence. JeM turned its guns on the Pakistani state after Musharraf signed up for the US war on terror in 2001. The group was riled further when Omar Saeed Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death for journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder.
Sheikh was released from an Indian prison along with JeM founder Masood Azhar in exchange for a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999. Azhar, who went underground in 2008, is believed to have made common cause with the Pakistani Taliban as they emerged as a formidable force seeking to overthrow the Pakistani state. JeM was reported to have trained Taliban guerrillas in Swat valley when they briefly overran the region in 2009.
In 2014, Pakistani media cited a 2011 intelligence report warning Azhar’s seminary in Bahawalpur was “actively fanning radicalism” and counted Taliban faction Ahrar-ul-Hind’s Umar Qasmi among its alumnus. Qasmi had claimed responsibility for attacks like 2014 Islamabad district court bombing.
Earlier in 2009, JeM was reported to have tied up with groups like Lashkar-eJhangvi, whose leader Malik Ishaq was killed along with his two sons in an “exchange of fire” with police in July 2015. Sharif ‘s aide, Shuja Khanzada, a former ISI field officer in charge of the NAP in Punjab, was killed in retaliation to Ishaq’s killing a month later.
The context makes JeM a compelling target under the NAP. Backsliding is not an option as the greater goal of mutual coexistence and better future of South Asia is at stake.
Courtesy: The Times of India