New Delhi, May 15: Within hours of deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani cautiously welcoming Pakistan’s ban on Masood Azhar’s entry into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, there are reports of the Jaish-e-Mohammad leader slipping into PoK, confirming India’s initial scepticism about Islamabad’s motives.
“If this ban on Azhar’s entry into PoK is any index of a beginning of a change, it is welcome,” Advani told reporters this morning. The home minister, like the rest of the Indian political establishment, is keenly watching developments in Pakistan and is unlikely to be taken in by temporary measures.
“Our insistence for the last several years is that cross-border terrorism, as an instrument of state policy, has to be abandoned,” he said. Advani felt that Pakistan is being forced to take action against terrorists because, after 9/11, the international community is in no mood to tolerate violence as a means to an end, however just the cause.
According to a Pakistani TV channel, Azhar has surfaced in Kotli town in PoK defying government orders. Local officials in Kotli denied the report. Indian officials said they have no independent confirmation on his whereabouts.
Delhi suspects Azhar, who was released by India to end the hijack of an Indian Airlines flight, of masterminding the attack on Parliament.
Jaish was banned and Azhar kept in preventive detention by President Pervez Musharraf last year, but he was released a few months ago. He has criticised the ban on his entry to PoK as an “appeasement for India”.
Advani stressed that Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s statement that there was no change in Pakistan’s attitude towards Kashmir “does not bother India. What we are keen on is a change in Pakistan’s attitude to cross-border terrorism”. Delhi realises that Islamabad needs to make these public statements of support for Kashmir from time to time.
Senior Indian officials appeared sceptical of Pakistan’s motives. “What is the point of getting excited about a local order banning Masood Azhar' There have been such orders issued before and mean very little,” a bureaucrat explained. “We are not bothered about a ban or whether the Jaish leader has defied it. Our concerns are different.”
The signals India is looking for are different. “We want all Masood Azhar’s activities stopped and firm, credible and long term measures taken by Pakistan to end terrorism and dismantle the infrastructure provided for terrorist attacks against India,” the official said. “We are looking for these kind of significant signals from Pakistan.”
India is not concerned if Azhar is in PoK, Karachi or Islamabad, so long as he is not allowed to plan terrorist attacks across the border. Though the Jaish is already banned in Pakistan, its cadre are operating under the banner of Al-Furqan.
After Lahore and Agra, the Indian establishment is wary and suspicious of Islamabad’s actions. “There is a lot of difference between what Pakistan says and does, so we don’t want to jump to hasty conclusions,” a North Block official said.