In face of Pakistan's 'terror ban', Jaish-e-Mohammed mouthpiece al-Qalam says it's business as usual

New Delhi: Ten days after Pakistan announced what has been billed as its most-serious crackdown on terrorist groups yet, an in-house magazine published by the Jaish-e-Mohammed has revealed that the proscribed group's leadership continues to hold indoctrination classes at its sprawling headquarters in Bahawalpur, organise meetings across the country.

Published each week from Peshawar, the 15 to 21 March issue of al-Qalam also contains articles by leaders of the jihadist group, including its emir, or prince, Maulana Masood Azhar Alvi and his brother, Talha Saif.

Islamabad had, on 5 March, said it had decided to "speed up action against all proscribed organisations". "In compliance, 44 under-observation members of proscribed organisations, including [JeM second-in-command] Mufti Abdul Rauf and Hamza Azhar, have been taken in preventive detention for investigation".

Earlier, on 22 February, the government of Pakistan's Punjab province announced it was taking over the administration of group's two main complexes in the city of Bahawalpur.

In face of Pakistans terror ban, Jaish-e-Mohammed mouthpiece al-Qalam says its business as usual

File image of JeM chief Masood Azhar. AFP

However, articles in al-Qalam make clear that activities at the Markaz Osman o-Ali — one of those two centres — are continuing as usual. The newspaper records that 27 students have begun the daura siyasa course, held each fortnight, at the Markaz Usman-o-Ali.

In its 1 March issue (see below), the newspaper said the course — where students are taught "knowledge of jihad" — "is devised by the emir of the mujahideen, Maulana Masood Azhar, and is conducted under his directions by teachers who have received instruction from him".

Al-Qalam has also invited participants for three other indoctrination courses to be in coming weeks — a Daura tafseer, from 16 to 30 March, a Daura tarbiya, from 22 March to 5 April, and Daura asasiyah, from 23 March to 6 April.

In his regular column in al-Qalam, Azhar — who uses the pen-name Sa'adi — alludes to difficulties, saying "our wings beat because of our prayers, which seek god's intercession for the Muslim nation... I urge my brothers to give a final push to realise the dreams of the Kashmiri people for freedom," Azhar writes, invoking the memory of Pulwama suicide bomber Adil Dar.

The newspaper's continued publication suggests that there that bank accounts used by the organisation — known to be held by individuals close to the organisation at branches of the Bank Islami in Karachi and Lahore — continue to be active.

Facing blacklisting by the multinational Financial Action Task Force for its failure to act against terror financing, Pakistan had announced an action plan to clamp down on fundraising by terrorist groups.

Bahawalpur-based sources told Firstpost there were no signs of change at the Markaz Usman-o-Ali, despite its takeover by the government. Although the Punjab government had appointed an administrator to run the centre, armed Jaish-e-Muhammad personnel continued to be stationed there.

Earlier this month, the BBC's Secunder Kirmani reported seeing a poster depicting an "assortment of guns alongside a slogan evoking a famous battle from Islamic history" at a JeM seminary in Islamabad.

"In the dusty street outside, a poster advertising a rally on behalf of the Kashmiri cause was emblazoned with the distinctive white and black flag of" the JeM, he wrote.

New Delhi has voiced scepticism on Pakistan's willingness to act against terrorism, noting that both the JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba emerged from past bans, in 2002, 2008 and 2016, unscathed, once international pressure eased.

The Latest Edition of Al-Qalam by Firstpost on Scribd


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Updated Date: Mar 15, 2019 17:23:05 IST

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