Maulana Masood Azhar, the man who apparently planned and supervised the execution of the attack on India’s Pathankot Air base is quite an enigma and so is his relationship with the Pakistani military establishment and also curiously with the right wing of the Indian establishment, which released him and flew him to Kandahar in December 1999.
Sensing India’s indignation at the audacious operation by his Bahawalpur based Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit, the civilian administration in Pakistan led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced the arrest of Masood Azhar, his brother and some other Jihadi elements ostensibly involved in the whole operation. But mocking his prime minister, Azhar has denied his arrest and announced nonchalantly the continuation of his jihad.
Hiding his curly black mane (according to someone who saw him bare headed once in an Indian jail), from censuring public gaze, he is so proud of, wearing that Arab scarf over his head all the time, even when he does his Wuzuu (ablutions) in a masjid, and carrying a kind of book/notebook in his hand in all photo ops, he projects himself as some medieval Jihadi with unsheathed sword raised in one hand and the Book in the other straight out of an era of the second Khulafae Rashideen (the first four caliphs, all Sunnis revere), Hazrat Umar Ibne Khattab who spread the Arab Muslim empire all the way to Spain.
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark did some great research for their book ‘The Meadow’ on this fraud crusader of Islam and exposed him for what he and his “No doubter” family of father, Master Allah Baksh Sabir Alvi were upto right from 1980s to 1990s when he was captured by the security forces in Kashmir valley travelling in an autorickshaw.
Masood Azhar, according to the book is the third of the 11 sons and daughters that Allah Bakhsh gave birth to (no mention of how many wives this God fearing Muslim had taken though). He is fat and short. The writers described that Master Alvi was very fond of his third son and called him his “Golden child” as in a golden goose which lays golden eggs. Naturally considering that his activities brought so much of wealth and fame to this municipal school mullah, who once relied mainly on gifts and alms from his Deobandi neighbours who valued him for his religious advice, his preaching and also match making.
He is five feet two inches tall, short sighted, sporting an oversized pair of aviator shades and a luxuriant beard. “Much to his father’s delight (Masood) had embraced the family business of ‘no doubting’ with great enthusiasm becoming the scourge of all kufrs, or unbelievers, including Muslims who did not adhere to the Deobandi way such as Shias, who he once described in a pamphlet as ‘cockroaches.’ Masood’s brother though “joked in an aside in his Kausar Colony that with his head swathed in an Arab keffiyeh …Masood looked like a ‘fundamentalist pupae’ (Keeda, makoda).’
Ignited by fundamentalist wahabi spirit and impressed by Masood’s gift of the gab, his father packed him off at a very young age to Darul Uloom Islamia, Binori town, 500 miles from Bahawalpur but a short bus ride from Karachi during the regime of General Mohammad Ziaul Haq who generously aided these madrasas to counter and crush democracy in Pakistan and aid the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet Union in the eighties.
Encouraged and financed by Zia, who through ISI was working at proliferating madrasas all over Pakistan, Maulana Abdul Rehman Khalil of Binori town started beckoning the ‘no doubters’ to jihad in Afghanistan against the heretics and Communists while the ISI system supplied his madrasa with a steady stream of six year olds to be indoctrinated for a holy Jihad.
“By the time Masood reached the ninth grade (of the madrasa) Maulana Khalil announced that he would be sent for jihad with other students from his class. Masood was unnerved….Since becoming a teenager he had grown used to the creature comforts of Binori town, preferring a rickshaw to walking and growing fat on tender Nihari…He managed to wriggle out of the trip, writing later that ‘I could not participate physically because of my studies. (Instead) I sent a few of my relatives including one of my brothers for jihad.’ However when Masood graduated in 1988, aged twenty, Khalil again offered him a place at a mujahideen training camp. This time Masood could not refuse and a few weeks later found himself at a Holy warrior base in Yawar Killi….Camp Yawar, with its subterranean classrooms, dormitories and bomb shelters carved from the bedrock, came as a severe shock to a young cleric, more accustomed to air-conditioned prayer halls…Maasod, exhausted by his three-day journey by pickup and pony and overwhelmed by 50 degree Celsius heat, confided to his private journal that he was ‘appalled’ by what greeted him.
“Overweight and short of breath, Masood failed to make it through the forty-day basic training. But as the young man had been sent with the personal blessing of Maulana Khalil, Saifullah (the company commander) could not return him to Karachi uninitiated in battle, so he dispatched him to the front line anyway.
“Needing to relieve himself in the middle of the night, Masood emerged from the dugout where his unit was sleeping and forgot in the darkness, to utter a password to the guards. Believing that Soviet backed Afghan forces were mounting an ambush, they opened fire and Masood received a bullet wound to the leg. Saifullah was horrified and arranged for Masood to be stretched back to Karachi (so much for our great Jihadi’s valour who incites young boys to become suicide bombers)…The calamitous story was reported to the ISI, whose agents still recall reading it incredulously. For a lesser recruit, this incident would have signaled an ignoble exit from the world of jihad. But Master Alvi was too important a figure in the Deobandi movement for his son to be cast aside. After recuperating, Masood was asked to become editor of Sadai Mujahid,” the authors wrote.
He commenced his innings at the journal by writing a fictitious story about himself how he, a brave Mujahid faced Russian troops and “Was hit by a Russian sniper but bravely struggled back to his trench from the battlefield (All in the realm of imagination) and ended writing ‘That’s why I resolved with Allah to spread the message of jihad.’ Wherever he went, the Russian sniper story preceded him and after a while he began using it to explain his pronounced limp. Despite his youth, the 21 year old was now addressed with the epithet of Hazrat , the revered one.”
The Book further states: “According to a journal written by Masood and later seized by Pakistani federal investigators, the Brigadier (Badam, known for drinking almond laced milk after giving up whisky in a fit of religiosity) approached Maulana Khalil in Karachi with a proposal. The ISI was prepared to offer US $ 25,000 a month to the Holy warriors to find fighters to wage war in Kashmir, a sum that could rise dramatically if Maulana Khalil achieved anything like his success in Afghanistan. The brigadier added, Masood recalled, that there was money to spend because for years the ISI had been siphoning off American cash intended for Afghanistan and putting it in contingency fund to aid rebellion in Kashmir.”
The book mentions quoting Masood in his journal how the ISI plans went awry because of spontaneous action by one of their fighters ‘Afghani and therefore “Someone senior from the movement would have to travel to Kashmir to get the Afghani back on course.” It also discloses that not just Masood Azhar, even his ‘no doubter’ father preferred the ‘Hazart’ inspiring and egging on others to jump into jihad rather than face the battlefield. “In late January, 1994 as Masood said his farewells (to fly to India to travel to Kashmir) Master Alvi, worried that his son was not ready to grab jihad by the throat. ‘Was he not better leading from Karachi?’ Master Alvi wrote in a desperate letter to one of Masood’s brothers,” seized by Pakistani investigators later. But the book noted, “ISI was too busy concocting a cover story to listen.”
Masood Azhar arrived in Delhi as a Portuguese with a clipped beard, clipped nails and a lot of imported perfume on his person, wearing a three piece imported suit, travelling on a Portuguese passport stolen by a fellow maulvi in London mosque from a Portuguese businessman Wali Adam Issa, with Pakistani and Bangladeshi visas stamped on it to establish its authenticity.” Yet when he deplaned in Delhi and the Customs and Immigration officials stared him down on a cold January morning, the great Jihadi broke into such perspiration, by his own account that even his vest became wet. What else he wetted, he wouldn’t disclose.
And then the supposedly ascetic Maulana checked into five star Ashoka Hotel and immediately ordered through his Kashmiri contact his favourite aphrodisiac Nihari and Khameeri roti from Karim’s which was promptly served him, notwithstanding the hotel’s policy of not allowing outside food. This so-called jihadi Maulana enjoyed his sojourn at the five star Ashoka for a full fortnight, shopping and eating on the streets of Jama Masjid. Meanwhile he also took a small trip to pay obeisance to the Darul Uloom Deoband. He flew to Kashmir on February 9 in a changed attire, pretending to be a Kashmiri Haji return from Haj, But he lost his marbles the moment he deplaned at Srinagar airport and saw armed khaki clad Indian security personnel all along the tarmac. “He began shaking like a leaf as a Kashmir policeman approach him with a clipboard,” he wrote later.
To cut a long story short, the book describes how the great Jihadi faced the Indian interrogators on being caught finally. It says, “According to the Indian interrogation transcripts, when Masood’s turn came he broke down within thirty minutes and blurted out the truth: he had not been kidnapped at all. The Afghani (the Jihadi accompanying him who tried to save him by concocting a story to the interrogators that he had kidnapped the Maulana and took all the blame upon himself) was furious and this time could not bring himself to ever forgive Masood.”
A little bit of the typical treatment given to the terrorists would have taken all the enthusiasm out of this so-called Jihadi who continues to egg on poor ignorant boys to commit suicides in the name of Islam. But the Indian security forces treated him with great deference like a VIP as a very Indian senior security officer, currently also an important functionary of this Government , mighty impressed by the Deobandi mullah, once confessed privately. Also there is ample evidence to show that all along Masood Azhar was and continues to be nothing but an instrument of the ISI.
By Faraz Ahmad in his own blog