What Is JeM? All About the Pak-based Terror Group Behind Pulwama

Pakistan-based militant module Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama blast.

Updated22 Feb 2019, 06:23 AM IST
India
7 min read
Snapshot

Pakistan-based terror module Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama attack, one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in Kashmir, that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.

Tensions have spiked between India and Pakistan – two nuclear-armed neighbours that have a long and bloody history – in the aftermath of the blast, with India squarely blaming Pakistan’s ISI for harbouring and sponsoring the JeM. The spotlight has again settled on JeM chief Masood Azhar and his renewed calls for “jihad against India”.

India has long been bristling at Azhar enjoying ‘free rein’ in Pakistan, and has repeatedly demanded that Islamabad take stringent action to stop the JeM’s activities on its soil. It has also called for Azhar to be listed by the UN as a “global terrorist”, but those efforts have been blocked by China.

Pakistan has offered a condemnation of the Pulwama attack, but says it will only take action if India provides “actionable intelligence”.

But Pulwama is hardly the first such attack by JeM. The group has been behind some of the most dastardly attacks on Indian soil,  including the 2001 Parliament attack that led to India mobilising its troops to the border in the ultimately failed Operation Parakram, and the Uri and Pathankot attacks of 2016.

What Is JeM? All About the Pak-based Terror Group Behind Pulwama

  1. 1. What Is JeM? How Did It Originate?

    Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is an Islamic extremist militant organisation based out of Pakistan, that operates primarily in Kashmir. It is considered to be the principal terrorist organisation in the Valley, owing to its deadly Fidayeen (suicide) attacks.

    Established in 2000, JeM was founded by radical Islamic scholar and jihadist leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, following his release from an Indian prison in the 1999 Air India hijacking and hostage crisis.

    It has close ties to the Deobandi Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, and other Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Al Qaeda.

    Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) had created Jaish by working with several Deobandi terrorists associated with the terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Mujahideen – a group set up in the mid-1990s to carry out "spectacular acts of terrorism".

    Air India IC-814

    Azhar was arrested by Indian forces on 10 February from Srinagar, while he was travelling under a fake identity. Following his capture, the Harkat made several unsuccessful attempts to break Azhar out of jail, culminating in success after the hijacking of a commercial flight IC-814 on New Years Eve in 1999.

    The Indian government was forced to release Azhar and two other known terrorists in exchange for 155 hostages aboard an Indian Airlines aircraft.

    Upon his release, Azhar gained immense popularity and decided to float a new outfit (JeM) rather than rejoin his old one.

    He also reportedly received assistance from ISI, the Taliban regime that was then ruling in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and several Sunni sectarian outfits in Pakistan, as per SATP.

    The newly formed group had a primary objective: To unite Kashmir with Pakistan. This aligned with the ambitions of the deep state in Pakistan.

    THE SPLIT

    Unlike LeT, which has remained largely intact, JeM bifurcated in 2001 following an ideological divide over whether to adhere to the whims of the Pakistani state.

    The JeM leadership sparred over whether to stay loyal to the Pakistani state or begin attacking it, in retaliation for then-president Pervez Musharraf’s assistance to the US in ousting Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, as Huffington Post reported.

    Azhar then developed close ties with Taliban and Al Qaeda, establishing his importance for the military-security establishment.

    Azhar’s loyalty to the state bore fruit.

    “Even though the Jaish and its leader Azhar are explicitly proscribed by the United States and the United Nations Security Council, among other entities, Pakistan adamantly continued protecting the organisation.”
    Huffington Post report

    Thus, Azhar was free to operate in his home town of Bahawalpur in southern Punjab. And despite being technically proscribed, even in Pakistan, JeM continues to operate and even expand in the country.

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Does the Pakistani Establishment Stand by JeM?

    The Pulwama attack has yet again raised questions over the ISI’s role in JeM’s rise.

    Many in the Indian security establishment have long held the view that JeM’s resurgence could not have come about without aid from Pakistan.

    And even though Jaish is listed as one of 33 banned organisations by Pakistan’s National Counter-Terrorism Authority, as reported by Reuters, the group has never hidden its existence, frequently issuing videos threatening India.

    Such is the proclivity of Pakistan to not act against Azhar that it has, on several occasions, asked China to intervene at its behest and place technical holds on India’s move to label Azhar a global terrorist.

    This raises a pertinent question: Why does Pakistan want to prevent Azhar from being designated a terrorist?

    According to Dr Raj Verma, visiting fellow, IDSA, India, Pakistan doesn’t want to label Azhar as a terrorist due to its domestic and regional security strategy.

    Verma wrote in a blog:

    “Azhar, as commander of the JeM, is invaluable for Pakistan’s military-security establishment. He is an Islamic ideologue, an excellent orator and a brilliant recruiter of jihadis. He has been engaged in an array of jihadist activities – from planning terrorist attacks to mobilising funds for jihad, among others. Additionally, he is a skilled negotiator and administrator.”

    Prof C Christine Fair, one of the most prominent scholars of the Pakistani political-military complex, concurs with this viewpoint.

    “Enervating the Jaish is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s strategy of managing its own internal security challenges as well as a cornerstone of its policy of nuclear blackmail to achieve ideological objectives in Kashmir,” she writes.

    Expand
  3. 3. Tracing JeM's Resurgence

    Since the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament carried out by JeM along with LeT, and a slew of suicide attacks in Kashmir over the next few years, JeM had largely been absent in Kashmir since 2004.

    For 12 long years, from 2004 to 2016, security forces believed they had wiped out the JeM in Kashmir, as this Indian Express report pointed out.

    But in the past two years, every major attack in the Valley can be traced back to JeM – from Uri and Pathankot in 2016, to Pulwama a week ago.

    After this long period of silence, Azhar resurfaced, with Pakistan establishment support, in a video in 2014, boasting of 300 suicide bombers at his command and threatening to kill Narendra Modi if he became India’s prime minister, as per the Reuters report.

    This backing, of the Pakistani establishment, dates right back to his rally in PoK in 2014. Experts had said back then that such a massive gathering couldn’t have been organised within PoK without the sanction of Pakistan’s all-powerful military.

    Reasons for JeM’s Revival

    A major boost to Jaish is the fact that it is no longer on the list of terror organisations maintained by Punjab Police in Pakistan.

    Another reason behind ISI’s push to revive JeM, as Fair points out in her piece, is to rehabilitate ‘the good terrorists’, to ensure that their guns do not attack Pakistan and remain committed to attacking India.

    The third reason is a strategic bid by Pakistan to turn international scrutiny away from the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen, as this Indian Express report on the re-emergence of Jaish notes.

    “The reason for Jaish-e-Mohammed coming to the forefront (of the militancy in the Valley) may be due to increased and repeated international scrutiny of LeT and its chief,” a secret police report quoted in the piece said.

    Expand
  4. 4. How JeM's Footprint is Expanding in the Valley

    The terror outfit has been expanding its footprint on the Valley by escalating its efforts to radicalise and recruit youth into militancy using technology.

    The fact that Thursday’s attack was carried out by a 22-year-old youth who had joined militant ranks just a year ago can attest to this.

    The general officer commanding-in-chief of the northern command, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, had said recently that Pakistani forces have been using social media to mobilise support among the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to stir them towards militancy.

    “Radicalisation is not only a concern in India but a global concern,” Lt Gen Singh had told PTI.

    Security forces in Kashmir are now coming across increasingly sophisticated militants that are “equipped with smartphones loaded with software that mimic popular social media and make the user difficult to track,” The Economic Times reported.

    Such operatives, indoctrinated and trained by JeM and other militant groups, are now using high-end technology including self-destructing software, encrypted messaging and tailor-made video calling applications, the report added.

    JeM was also in the process of secretly building a 15-acre complex on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur – five times the size of its existing headquarters, a Firstpost report from June 2017 had revealed.

    The complex, the report said, could be used to train thousands of youth as militants.

    Expand
  5. 5. India vs China: Efforts to Dismantle JeM

    The United Nations Security Council had, in 2001, blacklisted the Jaish, accusing it of “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of Al Qaeda acts”.

    But, as the Reuters report points out, “the group has floated in and out of the shadows”.

    A 2018 US State Department report had also slammed Pakistan for not cracking down on JeM and its activities. “The government failed to significantly limit LeT and JeM from openly raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan,” it had said.

    But, while Jaish was blacklisted by UNSC, India’s efforts to get Azhar sanctioned have failed, repeatedly.

    China has, on several occasions, made clear its position on India’s request to list Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN, and said it will decide on the issue on the "merits of the matter".

    These merits, however, have always been vague and Beijing has repeatedly blocked New Delhi’s attempts to list him as a “global terrorist” at the UN Security Council.

    Even after the Pulwama bombing, China said that it condemned the attack but refused to commit to listing Azhar as a terrorist.

    The relevant committee had rules and processes for listing people, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had said, as per PTI.

    China’s technical hold on India’s desire to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist has been one of the major bones of contention between India and China for a long time.

    (With inputs from PTI)

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    Expand

What Is JeM? How Did It Originate?

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is an Islamic extremist militant organisation based out of Pakistan, that operates primarily in Kashmir. It is considered to be the principal terrorist organisation in the Valley, owing to its deadly Fidayeen (suicide) attacks.

Established in 2000, JeM was founded by radical Islamic scholar and jihadist leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, following his release from an Indian prison in the 1999 Air India hijacking and hostage crisis.

It has close ties to the Deobandi Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, and other Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Al Qaeda.

Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) had created Jaish by working with several Deobandi terrorists associated with the terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Mujahideen – a group set up in the mid-1990s to carry out "spectacular acts of terrorism".

Air India IC-814

Azhar was arrested by Indian forces on 10 February from Srinagar, while he was travelling under a fake identity. Following his capture, the Harkat made several unsuccessful attempts to break Azhar out of jail, culminating in success after the hijacking of a commercial flight IC-814 on New Years Eve in 1999.

The Indian government was forced to release Azhar and two other known terrorists in exchange for 155 hostages aboard an Indian Airlines aircraft.

Upon his release, Azhar gained immense popularity and decided to float a new outfit (JeM) rather than rejoin his old one.

He also reportedly received assistance from ISI, the Taliban regime that was then ruling in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and several Sunni sectarian outfits in Pakistan, as per SATP.

The newly formed group had a primary objective: To unite Kashmir with Pakistan. This aligned with the ambitions of the deep state in Pakistan.

THE SPLIT

Unlike LeT, which has remained largely intact, JeM bifurcated in 2001 following an ideological divide over whether to adhere to the whims of the Pakistani state.

The JeM leadership sparred over whether to stay loyal to the Pakistani state or begin attacking it, in retaliation for then-president Pervez Musharraf’s assistance to the US in ousting Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, as Huffington Post reported.

Azhar then developed close ties with Taliban and Al Qaeda, establishing his importance for the military-security establishment.

Azhar’s loyalty to the state bore fruit.

“Even though the Jaish and its leader Azhar are explicitly proscribed by the United States and the United Nations Security Council, among other entities, Pakistan adamantly continued protecting the organisation.”
Huffington Post report

Thus, Azhar was free to operate in his home town of Bahawalpur in southern Punjab. And despite being technically proscribed, even in Pakistan, JeM continues to operate and even expand in the country.

Why Does the Pakistani Establishment Stand by JeM?

The Pulwama attack has yet again raised questions over the ISI’s role in JeM’s rise.

Many in the Indian security establishment have long held the view that JeM’s resurgence could not have come about without aid from Pakistan.

And even though Jaish is listed as one of 33 banned organisations by Pakistan’s National Counter-Terrorism Authority, as reported by Reuters, the group has never hidden its existence, frequently issuing videos threatening India.

Such is the proclivity of Pakistan to not act against Azhar that it has, on several occasions, asked China to intervene at its behest and place technical holds on India’s move to label Azhar a global terrorist.

This raises a pertinent question: Why does Pakistan want to prevent Azhar from being designated a terrorist?

According to Dr Raj Verma, visiting fellow, IDSA, India, Pakistan doesn’t want to label Azhar as a terrorist due to its domestic and regional security strategy.

Verma wrote in a blog:

“Azhar, as commander of the JeM, is invaluable for Pakistan’s military-security establishment. He is an Islamic ideologue, an excellent orator and a brilliant recruiter of jihadis. He has been engaged in an array of jihadist activities – from planning terrorist attacks to mobilising funds for jihad, among others. Additionally, he is a skilled negotiator and administrator.”

Prof C Christine Fair, one of the most prominent scholars of the Pakistani political-military complex, concurs with this viewpoint.

“Enervating the Jaish is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s strategy of managing its own internal security challenges as well as a cornerstone of its policy of nuclear blackmail to achieve ideological objectives in Kashmir,” she writes.

Tracing JeM's Resurgence

Since the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament carried out by JeM along with LeT, and a slew of suicide attacks in Kashmir over the next few years, JeM had largely been absent in Kashmir since 2004.

For 12 long years, from 2004 to 2016, security forces believed they had wiped out the JeM in Kashmir, as this Indian Express report pointed out.

But in the past two years, every major attack in the Valley can be traced back to JeM – from Uri and Pathankot in 2016, to Pulwama a week ago.

After this long period of silence, Azhar resurfaced, with Pakistan establishment support, in a video in 2014, boasting of 300 suicide bombers at his command and threatening to kill Narendra Modi if he became India’s prime minister, as per the Reuters report.

This backing, of the Pakistani establishment, dates right back to his rally in PoK in 2014. Experts had said back then that such a massive gathering couldn’t have been organised within PoK without the sanction of Pakistan’s all-powerful military.

Reasons for JeM’s Revival

A major boost to Jaish is the fact that it is no longer on the list of terror organisations maintained by Punjab Police in Pakistan.

Another reason behind ISI’s push to revive JeM, as Fair points out in her piece, is to rehabilitate ‘the good terrorists’, to ensure that their guns do not attack Pakistan and remain committed to attacking India.

The third reason is a strategic bid by Pakistan to turn international scrutiny away from the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen, as this Indian Express report on the re-emergence of Jaish notes.

“The reason for Jaish-e-Mohammed coming to the forefront (of the militancy in the Valley) may be due to increased and repeated international scrutiny of LeT and its chief,” a secret police report quoted in the piece said.

How JeM's Footprint is Expanding in the Valley

The terror outfit has been expanding its footprint on the Valley by escalating its efforts to radicalise and recruit youth into militancy using technology.

The fact that Thursday’s attack was carried out by a 22-year-old youth who had joined militant ranks just a year ago can attest to this.

The general officer commanding-in-chief of the northern command, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, had said recently that Pakistani forces have been using social media to mobilise support among the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to stir them towards militancy.

“Radicalisation is not only a concern in India but a global concern,” Lt Gen Singh had told PTI.

Security forces in Kashmir are now coming across increasingly sophisticated militants that are “equipped with smartphones loaded with software that mimic popular social media and make the user difficult to track,” The Economic Times reported.

Such operatives, indoctrinated and trained by JeM and other militant groups, are now using high-end technology including self-destructing software, encrypted messaging and tailor-made video calling applications, the report added.

JeM was also in the process of secretly building a 15-acre complex on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur – five times the size of its existing headquarters, a Firstpost report from June 2017 had revealed.

The complex, the report said, could be used to train thousands of youth as militants.

India vs China: Efforts to Dismantle JeM

The United Nations Security Council had, in 2001, blacklisted the Jaish, accusing it of “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of Al Qaeda acts”.

But, as the Reuters report points out, “the group has floated in and out of the shadows”.

A 2018 US State Department report had also slammed Pakistan for not cracking down on JeM and its activities. “The government failed to significantly limit LeT and JeM from openly raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan,” it had said.

But, while Jaish was blacklisted by UNSC, India’s efforts to get Azhar sanctioned have failed, repeatedly.

China has, on several occasions, made clear its position on India’s request to list Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN, and said it will decide on the issue on the "merits of the matter".

These merits, however, have always been vague and Beijing has repeatedly blocked New Delhi’s attempts to list him as a “global terrorist” at the UN Security Council.

Even after the Pulwama bombing, China said that it condemned the attack but refused to commit to listing Azhar as a terrorist.

The relevant committee had rules and processes for listing people, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had said, as per PTI.

China’s technical hold on India’s desire to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist has been one of the major bones of contention between India and China for a long time.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Published: 21 Feb 2019, 05:08 PM IST

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