Despite ban, JeM reappears on social media

Wednesday 28th August 2019 05:51 EDT

Islamabad: Jaish-e-Mohammed has re-emerged on social media platforms by issuing its first public message since Islamabad banned the group in April, amid international pressure. "There are people who are silent, but doing a great deal," reads the Urdu-language message, written over an image of Jaish terrorists in combat uniform, and attributed to the organisation's chief, Masood Azhar Alvi. The message comes even as the United States government official lauded Pakistan in an interview for the steps the country had "taken against Jaish and Lashkar-e-Taiba".

Indian intelligence officials said the re-emergence of the Jaish in the public sphere implied that restraints imposed on it by Pakistan's military were being eased, in response to the unfolding crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. Last week, jihadist social media feeds in Pakistan had also circulated a message attributed to Masood Azhar. "Kashmiris need to get out on to the streets," it read. "Then the enemy will beg for peace and negotiation."

The Jaish's message appeared targeted towards Islamists in Kashmir, among whom the Inter-Services Intelligence-backed group has long been seeking to expand its reach. However, the message did not bear the insignia of the Jaish or its official publication al-Qalam. Faced with the sanctions from the multinational Financial Action Task Force, Islamabad says it has brought seminaries linked to jihadist groups under government administration and is prosecuting key leaders for financing terrorism.

But Lahore-based sources said that weapon-wielding Lashkar-e-Taiba personnel were still visible around the organisation's headquarters at Lahore's Chowburji. Public entry to the Jaish's seminaries in Bahawalpur, the sources said, also remained blocked by guards belonging to the organisation.

Last month, a United Nations watchdog raised fears that cadres of these jihadist groups were also training with the Taliban in Afghanistan, who it said "cooperate and retain strong links with al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba".

Prominent Pakistani clerics have called for jihad against India at rallies over the last week. Mufti Abdul Qavi, a member of the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaaf Party, who gained notoriety when he was filmed attempting to seduce slain social-media star Qandeel Baloch said last week that it was "moral and shari'a-based obligation on Muslims living in India that they support the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims in their jihad".

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