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Pakistan repudiates Masood Azhar, JeM leadership in a bid to remove itself from FATF Grey list

Pakistan is thought to have effectively repudiated the leadership of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist organisation in order to remove itself from the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) Grey List.

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New Delhi: Pakistan is thought to have effectively repudiated the leadership of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist organisation in order to remove itself from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Grey List. While Islamabad claims that JeM leader Masood Azhar Alvi moved from Bahawalpur in Punjab to Afghanistan after an ultra-conservative Sunni-Pashtun militia occupied Kabul in 2021, the Taliban leadership has rejected this claim. However, intelligence sources suggest Azhar is currently in the east of Afghanistan.

It is also known that Rauf Azhar, the de facto leader of the JeM, has been protected by the Pakistani deep state.

On September 13, the Pakistani foreign ministry wrote to the Taliban to ask for help in finding and detaining Masood Azhar. The Taliban flatly refused this letter and demand, claiming that the terrorist leader was not present in Afghanistan.

Af-Pak observers claim that the Pakistani deep state is once more engaging in a twin strategy to get rid of the FATF hook. It is believed that the military headquarters in Rawalpindi may have forced Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to Kabul after the Taliban took control, leaving him vulnerable to US airfire missiles.

Masood Azahar was freed in return for the passengers of Indian Airlines Flight 814 (IC814), which was kidnapped in Kandahar in 1999, and met Taliban leader Mullah Umar shortly after. Pakistan is taking advantage of these long-standing ties to get what it wants in this case with Masood Azahar.

When India and France co-sponsored a resolution before the UNSC 1267 sanctions committee against Aurangzeb Alamgir alias Mujahid Bhai and Ali Kashif Jan alias Jan Ali Kashif, Masood Azhar and his brother were all but abandoned by Pakistan. While Alamgir, a Pakistani citizen from Bahawalpur, was the main organiser, fund-raiser, and infiltration commander behind the 2019 terror assault in Pulwama that resulted in the death of 40 CRPF members by a JeM suicide bomber, Alamgir was also the main planner behind the 2016 Pathankot incident.

On Wednesday, a Taliban spokesman tweeted that the foreign ministry of Afghanistan rejects media reports that “Masood Azhar, the leader of the Pakistani Jaish-e-Mohammed group, has sought refuge in Afghanistan”.

The spokesman added, “We reiterate that [the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] does not allow any armed opposition [groups] in its territory to operate against any other country.”

The Taliban called on all parties “to refrain from such allegations lacking any proof and documentation”. Such media allegations “can adversely affect bilateral relations”, the spokesman said.

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