Masood Azhar just did a surgical strike on Pakistan more effective than the one carried out by Indian Army's Special Forces on 29 September. In one editorial, published in the newest issue of terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad's weekly pamphlet, he blew away Nawaz Sharif's fig leaf and made Islamabad stark naked in its brazen bullying glory before the entire world. In the process, the JeM chief also raised some uncomfortable questions for China ahead of President Xi Jinping's Brics visit to India.
During last month's UNGA address in New York, Nawaz Sharif had stretched the last tendril of credulity when he went against history, reason and a mountain of evidence and proclaimed Kashmir violence as a "popular and peaceful freedom movement" led by "young leader Burhan Wani".
Taking into account the pulls and pressures of Pakistani Deep State over its civilian government; Nawaz's compulsions of ratifying Pakistan's prized assets in the hybrid war against its neighbours; the need to stoke the embers of Kashmir fire — the speech was still a bravura display of defiance where the Prime Minister of a nation was found openly backing a self-declared militant of a designated terrorist organisation from the ramparts of UN. It showed Islamabad's steady flight down the nihilistic slope of terrorism on the wings of denial.
Masood's appeal to the Pakistan government to let loose the dogs of terrorism and use the 'historic opportunity' to snatch Kashmir, therefore, is the next logical step to Nawaz's UN address. He was merely ratifying what the Pakistan PM had said and the world (except China and the House of Saud) already knew.
More interestingly, however, Masood's address provides the context for Kashmir violence. It lays bare the reasons behind Pakistan's Kashmir obsession — the need to avenge 1971 humiliation and the burning ambition for one Islamic Ummah in the Indian subcontinent. And it exposes, not for the first time, Rawalpindi's historic role behind the insurgency and its steely resolve to use all terrorist groups, "non-state actors" and tools of insurgency at its command to engage 'Hindustan' in a never-ending jihad.
"If the government of Pakistan shows a little courage, the problem of Kashmir, as well as the dispute over water, can be resolved once and for all right now. If nothing else, the government simply has to open the path for the mujahideen. Then, god willing, all the bitter memories of 1971 will be dissolved into the triumphant emotions of 2016,” reads Azhar's front-page editorial, according to Praveen Swami in The Indian Express.
In the editorial, Azhar exhorts Pakistan's policymakers and argues that the "jihadist policies it backed in the 1990s had brought strategic benefits to the country" and left India profusely bleeding, with "every one of its limbs badly injured". He goes on to add that "what remained of India's military prowess was exposed in Pathankot and Uri," according to the newspaper.
Shorn of rhetoric, this is the damnedest indictment yet of Pakistan's hand behind the twin terror attacks and yanks off the last vestige of Islamabad's deniability. It is difficult to name and shame a puppet government but it could be worthwhile taking a reaction from Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who claimed that Uri was "staged by India itself" to malign Pakistan and take focus away from Kashmir, on what he made of Masood Azhar's statement.
The JeM founder, who was released by the NDA government in 1999 in exchange for kidnapped 155 passengers and crew members of IC 814, writes further that "terror in Kashmir has weakened India" dramatically and a comparative evaluation of "India before and after the jihad in Kashmir" shows that it has "reduced from a serpent to an earthworm."
"When we entered the tent of the jihadist movement,” writes Azhar, "it had no branch in Kashmir, nor was there lightning in Iraq or Syria. There were just two fronts, in Afghanistan and Palestine… We have watched as the jihad we befriended grew from a glowing ember into the sun…", according to the newspaper.
The Indian Army unit that crossed over into the LoC and rained fire on launch pads, could destroy just five of the substantial terror infrastructure. Masood, through one article, established the chain that links jihad in Kashmir to global terrorism.
As Firstpost had argued back in July (Not Burhan Wani, it's Pakistan's proxy war that's behind Kashmir tragedy, the neutralising of Burhan Wani wasn't an inflection point in "Kashmir intifada" as Pakistan would have the world believe, but merely the kicking off of the latest phase in a long history of Rawalpindi-manufactured violence.
Masood's statement indicates the extent of Pakistan's collusion in The Kashmir Project — a venture launched by that humiliated and bitter former ISI chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul in mid-1970s. Right from Kalashnikov-wielding Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) militants in early 90s to Hizbul Mujahideen, from Lashkar-e-Taiba to Jaish-e-Mohammed, the history of "peaceful and popular freedom movement" is now clear.
For Beijing, the al-Qalam editorial poses some tough questions. Only last week China's state-controlled media had accused India of seeking "political gains" in getting UN to ban Masood Azhar. It would be interesting to note now how China justifies its stand of extending "technical hold" on designating the JeM founder as a global terrorist whom India has accused of masterminding the attacks on Indian Parliament in 2001 and on an IAF base in Pathankot, the last of which has been acknowledged by Masood himself.
If Beijing continues to stand as the only impediment behind Azhar's designation as a terrorist, it would have done a cost-benefit analysis of the losses it may suffer by withdrawing the hold in terms of its heavy investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Beijing's conduct over the South China Sea should tell us just how 'seriously' it takes global opinion when it comes to own strategic interests. So it would be foolish to think that Masood's statement will force its hand any which way. What it may do is make its bargaining chip vis-à-vis India a little weaker. A position New Delhi would no doubt have noted ahead of the Brics Summit.