Maulana Masood Azhar is alive, a provincial minister in Pakistan’s Punjab said on Monday, a day after rumours of the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief’s death did rounds of social media. “He is alive. Maulana Masood Azhar is alive. We have no information of his death,” news agency ANI quoted Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan, the culture and information minister of Pakistan’s Punjab, as saying.
Terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, in a fresh statement, has already claimed that Masood Azhar is alive but confirmed that the Indian Air Force (IAF) indeed targeted it camps in Pakistan's Balakot with Israeli guided missiles on February 26. Its statement came amid conflicting reports that Masood Azhar died either in the airstrike or due to liver cancer.
However, there was no confirmation from any authoritative sources. Jaish-e-Mohammed had identified suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar as the one who carried out the attack on February 14 that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans in Pulwama. In an unverified 10-minute video recorded before the attack, Dar also mentioned that many more people like him were ready to 'follow the same path'.
In the statement, Jaish said there has been growing pressure from India, the US and even Russia against Pakistan to take action against the terrorist group. It said the Pakistan government was planning action to satisfy the international community.
The Pakistan-based organisation said it feared Pakistan government might crack down on after coming under international pressure. It also asked its cadres to unite and be ready anytime to migrate. The terror group also fears shutting down of its Madarsas.
Amid pressure to show the damage caused by IAF's precision bombing on the Jaish-e-Mohammed training facility, India is contemplating releasing evidence in the days to come to silence those doubting the impact. The IAF had declared that disclosing proof of the air strike impact was a call to be taken by the government even though electronic evidence gathered by radar images was sufficient to establish the damage caused to the structures.
Though there was no credible confirmation about the number of casualties, and Pakistani establishment remaining in denial mode, a video clip of Masood Azhar's brother Maulana Ammar had surfaced on Saturday where he can be heard accepting that the Balakot camp had taken a hit. The recording is said to be from a public function organized in Peshawar after the air strike.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also accepted on television that Masood Azhar was in Pakistan and that he was not well. Another report from Islamabad said the JeM founder was undergoing dialysis in a Pakistan army hospital. Reports claimed that after getting seriously injured in the air strike, Masood Azhar died in a hospital.
Masood Azhar was suspected to be afflicted with renal failure and is under regular dialysis at an army hospital in Rawalpindi in Pakistan, officials said on Saturday.
Qureshi said on Thursday: "He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is unwell to the extent that he can't leave his house, because he's really unwell".
The Jaish-e-Mohammad chief was a close associate of Osama bin Laden, terror motivator in several African countries and also known by many as the Pakistani cleric who brought jihad into the religious discourse at mosques in the UK, the official said.
The JeM was reactivated in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, a year after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The group had constituted a special 'Afzal Guru squad' to avenge his hanging.