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Volume 1, No. 8 - January 2002

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Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)

Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Prophet) was floated by Maulana Masood Azhar in February 2000, immediately after his release in the hijack drama of Indian Airlines plane IC814 in December 1999.

The JeM is ideologically, and in terms of organizational links, an extension of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, that was banned by the US in 1997, owing to its reported association with bin Laden. Harkat-ul-Ansar rechristened itself as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen in 1998.

Though the leaders of the JeM are all foreigners, the group has dependable local recruits, and this makes it a deadly adversary. Though known for its hit-and-run attacks on police and security forces, its big operation was the one on the Badami Bagh Cantonment, when one of its members drove a hijacked car loaded with explosives into the main gate of the cantonment on April 19, 2000. It marked the first suicide bomb attack in the 13-year-old history of Kashmir militancy. Police assert that the JeM, with its small and committed network in parts of the old city and some areas up-town, was also responsible for other daylight attacks.

The emergence of the JeM revolves round Maulana Masood Azhar, the Harkat leader who was jailed in Kashmir. He was finally released on December 31, 1999, when External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh flew him along with two others to Kandahar, and bartered them for the release of the hijacked plane and its passengers. The creation of JeM was the first act of a freed Azhar.

Hailing from Bahawalpor in Pakistan, Azhar entered Kashmir on February 9, 1994 from Bangladesh on a "forged" Portuguese passport (the passport identified him as Adam Issa). He toured the valley with Sajjad Afghani.

Investigations after his arrest revealed that Azhar had come to forge unity of two groups - Harkat-e-Jehad-e-Islami (HJI) and HuM. The HJI was operating in the mountains of south Kashmir and Doda, and had succeeded in almost overrunning a number of security camps and inflicting massive casualties, under the command of Mansoor Khan Largyal, who is presently in Jodhpur Jail, Rajasthan, with 21 other foreign militants. The HuM had just begun from north Kashmir. Azhar managed their merger, and the Harkat-ul-Ansar was born. The outfit, with its highly motivated cadres and strict discipline, proved itself capable of army-like coordination.

The IC 814 hijack that shook the world, especially the subcontinent, in late 1999, was the fifth and the final bid to get Azhar out of jail. The hostage crisis rocked the entire world. This was, in fact, the prime reason for the US branding the Harkat-ul-Ansar as a terrorist outfit in October 1997, along with 29 others. After the ban, the Harkat-ul-Ansar bifurcated into the HJI and HuM, with Azhar said to be closer to the HuM.

After his release, Azhar returned to Pakistan, and founded the JeM from Masjid Falal in Karachi. The move was resisted by Moulana Fazl-ur-Rehman Khalili, co-founder of the HuM. Khalili, in fact, resigned from his top post in the HuM, and offered the same to Azhar, an offer Azhar rejected. The HuM was reported to have joined this new outfit. Later, however, it became clear that both continued to exist, in spite of the fact that most HuM men joined Azhar's group. In May 1999, the HuM announced its merger with Azhar's outfit in Kashmir.

The JeM and HuM, however, fought pitched battles for the control of HuM assets in Pakistan, details of which were published by the Pakistan media in detail. This even led to the assassination of Moulana Ludhyanavi, one of the JeM's top supporters. Ludhyanavi was mysteriously killed soon after his return from Afghanistan, with a mission to seek help from Taliban for the new outfit. The outfit is currently running two training camps for its recruits.

The added advantage Azhar had was that Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, a young Srinagar youth, who was heading the Al-Umar Mujahideen, was also freed in the barter. In the belief that Zargar's contacts will rejuvenate the militant movement, the long-dead outfit was revived. Though it has not been actually revived, its cadres are believed to be working for the JeM. Zargar is reportedly untraceable in Pakistan. He is the only Kashmir militant, presently based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), who issued a statement that he is leaving for Kabul to help his "embatteled friends".

The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has owned responsibility for October 1, 2001 strike on Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. It is stated to be the only one connected to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida.

Strong Deobandi creed forms the primary religious and ideological base for Jaish as well as Taliban. In fact, the Taliban movement was launched by the students of the very network of 9000 madrasas which the Jaish's (formerly Harkat) parent organisation -- Jamiat-e-Ulemai-Islam -- runs across Pakistan. Masood only knit the ties stronger after his release (Kandhar hijacking in 1999) as he toured Kandhar to secure the blessings of Taliban leadership soon after he planned to launch Jaish Mohammad or the `Army of the Prophet'.

Moulana Azhar Masood, who is emerging as the ultimate leader of Deobandi pan-Islamist militants in Kashmir, has however been directly associated with madrassas, Jamia Abu Yousuf, Madipore Karachi and Jamiat-ul-Uloomi Islamiyah in Binori town of Karachi. The Binori madrassa has around 8,000 students and many a top Taliban leadership is product of this institute. According to Ahmad Rasheed, this madrassa sent 600 students to join Taliban in 1996 alone.

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