As the conflict between Pakistan and India is brewing, Jaish-e-Mohammed, the supposed target of the questionable pre-emptive air strike that was carried out by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on February 26th, broke its silence through a column in the group’s mouthpiece that there were no casualties during the Balakot strike, contrary to what the Indian government is reporting.
The column was supposedly written by Jaish Chief Masood Azhar under his pen name “Saadi” and claimed that the air strike carried out by India did not kill any of his members and called the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi out for spreading false news of losses suffered by Masood Azhar-led group.
He said that “all [of his men] are alive, and all is well,” while denying the claim of the Indian government that the strike has destroyed the infamous Jaish camp in Balakot.
Indian authorities claimed that their “non-military” and “pre-emptive” air strike has killed 300 members of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group and that they have destroyed the training camp in Balakot that they described as ‘the heart of training for suicide bombers.’
Furthermore, India also claims that the strike has neutralized Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law, Yousuf Azhar, who serves as the leader of the Jaish camp in Balakot province.
The claims of the Indian government were immediately denied by the Pakistani government saying that Pakistani fighter jets were able to respond to the IAF strike abruptly and were able to force Indian planes to prematurely unload their bombs in a sparsely populated area in Balakot – where no one was actually hurt or killed.
According to the source, it is still difficult, if not impossible, to establish if Azhar is indeed the author of the said column. Nevertheless, the weekly paper Al-Qalam is widely recognized as the JeM mouthpiece.
Following reports that the Jaish Chief’s health is deteriorating, he also used the column to deny these claims. He even challenged Modi to prove how medically fit he is. “Unlike Narendra Modi, I am fully fit. I challenge him to a game or archery or a shooting completion to prove I am fitter than he is,” Azhar wrote in the column.
He also added that the reports on his health are just propaganda against him. “I am fully well. My kidney and liver are perfect,” he said. Azhar also added that members of the JeM has never been to the hospital or consulted a doctor for the last seventeen years. He attributes his good health to a Quran-suggested diet which has freed him from ailments like hypertension and diabetes.
Azhar also used the column as an opportunity to validate and glorify Jaish attacks like that in Pulwama. He called those attacks as a ‘freedom movement’ and said that the suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dhar has ignited a fire in the heart of Kashmiris, and it is not going to be extinguished soon. The ‘freedom movement’ would only spread further, he warned. “There is nothing to worry about.”
The air strike that India claimed to have killed JeM terrorists is widely considered as India’s response to the Pulwama attack that is associated with the Jaish group. A few weeks before the Balakot strike, a suicide bomb explodes in Pulwama near an envoy of Indian officials. The attack has killed 40 Indian soldiers.
The series of attacks by Pakistan, India, and the JeM stems back from the conflict between the two neighboring countries over the Kashmir region, near the Indian and Pakistani border. The two countries have fought three wars and many attacks to gain control and claims over the disputed region for the last five decades. Currently, under a ceasefire agreement, both Pakistan and India, which claim Kashmir, only control half of the territory, bordered by the Line of Control.
Following the Balakot air strike, the first time that India has violated and crossed the LoC since the 1970s, Pakistan and India have been flexing each other’s muscles to show how powerful they are and how ready their armies are for war. Only recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has hinted that he and his nation is ready to use the entire strength of it military against India and other superpowers that will provoke his country – subtly suggesting that he is ready to use Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if the time comes. /apr