Days ago, the news spread outrage on social media first and then on other media, even on Pakistani ones — after winning 26 seats in the Assembly election in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), the ruling party chaired by Imran Khan, handed over the ticket for one of the seats to a “gentleman” called Mazhar Saeed Shah, also known as Abdullah Shah Mazhar. The fellow has a long history of association with terrorist organisations — born in the Neelam Valley, lived in Karachi for a long time, where he held preeminent positions in the now-banned Harkat-ul-Mujahideen first and then in the Jaish-e-Mohammed under the direct tutelage of Masood Azhar.
His career flourished in the Afghan jihad, where he held important positions serving in the Taliban government. More recently, after splitting from the JeM and founding another group, he joined hands with Maulana Fazlur Rehman. After being rejected by a couple of radical parties, he finally got a ticket from the PTI, creating a storm in the media — a surprising storm because most of the candidates in the Assembly election were, in fact, members of or affiliated with terrorist organisations.
Most Candidates Are Linked To Terrorist Groups
For example, in Koyan of Rawalakot district, another “gentleman” Nasir Qayyoom, member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was contesting the elections under the banner of the United Kashmir Movement, a party formed by the same Jamaat-ud-Dawa. He was campaigning on social media through posts of the in-theory jailed Mohammed Hafiz Saeed and pictures of himself in combat attire.
Occupying key posts in the PoK political scene has been only the last stage of a very, very good year for terrorists in Pakistan. While the world, and South Asia in particular, almost came to a stop because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered, for a more or less prolonged time, all economic and cultural activities, the only organisations that never stopped and never ceased to be active were, in fact, the terrorist groups. We know from video and images, for example, that in February, the glorious Jaish-e-Mohammed, headed in the region by Masood Ilyas, was holding rallies in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, calling for jihad and challenging the rest of the world to come and see that their struggle would never be over.
The ‘Brave Social Workers’ Of JeM
During the same time, perhaps because of the lack of “official” cultural activities, the brave “social workers” of the JeM started the re-publication of ‘Musalmaan Bache’ (Children of Islam), one of the main publications of the group. It had been discontinued in the past most probably during one of the big whitewashing done by the Pakistan government in order to exit the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) greylist. The group is now publishing regularly, while the Amir Masood Azhar has continued, throughout the pandemic, to comfort and support his followers, by airing his messages on social media.
Always due to the lack of social activities in Pakistan, perhaps, the group also provided education to the masses, organising in February a course (Daura Tafseer Ayat Al-Jihad) at Jamia Masjid Noor Gaon Sokhta, in Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; it organised two other courses, a Daura-e- Asasiya (basic course) and Daura-e-Khair (course on virtue) at its Markaz Usman-o-Ali headquarters in Bahawalpur. All this, of course, while the government of Pakistan was, for the umpteenth time, trying to convince the world of their good faith in cracking down on terrorist organisations, their activities, bank accounts and fundraisings.
But seemingly, this was again a lie. In fact, the JeM has not stopped at all — it has intensified its fund-collection drive.
Before Ramadan this year, a number of posters calling for donations were circulated on social media. In one of these posters, uploaded on April 10, the organisation was making an appeal calling for donations to complete the construction of the Jamia Siddique Masjid in Peshawar, a masjid affiliated to the JeM.
Masood Azhar and his goons were not only asking for money but were also on a big recruiting campaign.
During the month of May, posters calling for new recruitments were mushrooming all over the country — in Kohat district, for example, and in three madrassas in Karachi (Jamia Al Noor, Aka Khel Masjid and Bateha Masjid). In the same month, the JeM announced on social media the opening of admissions for a course on Hifz & Nazra (memorising and understanding the Quran). The course was for free and held at the Madrassa Abdullah bin Masood Jangal Khel, Kohat.
Open Calls For Jihad
The calls for jihad were not limited to Afghanistan or India. In May, the JeM posted a ‘maktoob’, calling on Islamic countries to immediately consider jihad to liberate Palestine. It added that Islamic countries that were unable to dispatch armies against Israel “due to the hypocrisy of international laws” should dispatch ‘mujahideens’ and ‘razakaars’ (volunteers) to take part in jihad, and that they should issue a fatwa against Jews.
While the JeM — from the same Pakistan that claims to have acted against terrorists — continues to flourish, recruit, raise funds, contest elections and instigate violence across the globe and against countries (except China for the treatment of their Uighur brothers), the government in Islamabad plays the ‘Three Monkeys’ game when it comes to terrorists. The truth is, terrorist groups are their biggest and practically the only asset, the main leverage used successfully for years to convince the rest of the world of the necessity to finance, cajole and arm Pakistan to have some sort of dystopian peace in the area. And one doesn’t change a winning team, isn’t it?
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book is ‘Balochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. She tweets at @francescam63. This is a testimony based article, and the protagonist wishes to remain anonymous. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)