JeM chief Masood Azhar: India’s most wanted, and the ‘man who brought jihad to Britain’

Terrorist Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi, who is responsible for multiple attacks in India, recently gained media attention when claims and counterclaims regarding his whereabouts were made.  

Pakistan claimed that Masood Azhar is in the neighbouring country Afghanistan. Kabul denied the claims, saying such organisations can operate on Pakistan’s soil, even under “official patronage”. 

India’s most-wanted, Masood Azhar is one of the most dreaded terrorists in the world. He is the founder and leader of the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). 

JeM is responsible for multiple deadly attacks in India, including the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. The impact of the attack was massive, it had brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war. 

Some reports say Azhar was born in Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan on July 10, 1968, some reports say he was born on August 7, 1968. Accounts of his early life depend on claims and reports. Masood Azhar was the third of 11 children, six daughters and five sons. His father, Allah Bakhsh Shabbir, is said to be a headmaster at a government-run school. 

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After dropping out of mainstream school after class 8th, Azhar graduated in 1989 from the Jamia Uloom Islamic school. It is said that the madrasa was heavily involved with Harkat-ul-Ansar, an Islamic militant group. As per reports, Azhar was enrolled on a jihad-training camp in Afghanistan. 

The JeM chief had joined the Soviet-Afghan War and retired after suffering injuries. He was appointed to Harkat’s department of motivation as the head. Reports related to his early life showed signs of where his life was actually heading. 

‘The man who brought jihad to Britain’ 

To raise funds and spread the message of ‘Islamism’, Azhar visited many countries like Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, the United Kingdom and Albania after becoming the general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar. 

His activities in Britain are quite elaborate. Azhar entered the UK in 1993 with the main objectives of raising funds and recruiting. He has given the message of jihad at some of the most prestigious Islamic institutions including the Darul Uloom Bury seminary, Zakariya Mosque, Madina Masjid in Blackburn and Burnley, and Jamia Masjid. 

In 2016, BBC published a research-based opinion labelling him as a man who “brought jihad to Britain”. In Britain, Azhar made contacts that eventually helped to provide training and logistical support for many terror plots. 

Was arrested in India, but later released

Azhar was arrested by Indian authorities in 1994 from Khanabal near Anantnag. The investigation was underway and he was jailed for his terrorist activities with the groups. 

But in a dramatic turn of events, the authorities had to release Azhar. He is one of the terrorists freed by India in exchange for passengers of a hijacked plane of Indian Airlines in 1999. 


The establishment of this new terror outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), was planned by Azhar. If reports are to be believed, he had received help from Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and several other extremist groups. 

He is responsible for many deadly attacks in India, including the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. The Pakistan-based terrorist organisation was also linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks. 

The Pathankot attack on an Indian air base in 2016 was reportedly masterminded by Masood Azhar and his brother. 

He also perpetrated the Pulwama attack in 2019, in which India’s 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed. After the attack, some countries including, France, the United Kingdom and the United States moved a proposal to UN Security Council to ban him. 

Why did China ‘save’ Azhar? 

India and some other Western countries were trying to nab this terrorist, but China appeared to have some other intentions. A UN Security Council Sanctions Committee listing Azhar as a terrorist was blocked by the Chinese government. 

China cited ‘lack of evidence’ when attempts were made by UNSC. There have been four attempts to put Azhar on the agency’s counter-terrorism sanctions list, but every time China vetoed it. 

However, in 2019, China pulled the blockade. It resulted in the listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee. 

This UN-designated terrorist walks free as two nations continue the diplomatic spat over its whereabouts. 


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