Despite ban, Jaish-e-Mohammed reappears on social media to instigate Islamists in Kashmir to heighten protest against India

Praveen Swami

New Delhi: Even as the United States has hailed Pakistan for "initial steps" taken against the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the internationally-proscribed terrorist group has remerged on social media platforms€"issuing its first public message since  Islamabad clamped down on 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.

Earlier this week, a United States government official had praised Pakistan in an interview to Geo Television, lauding the steps the country had "taken against Jaish-e-Mohammed  and Lashkar-e-Taiba".

Indian intelligence officials said the reemergence 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."

However, the message, unlike the one released today, did not bear the insignia of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, or its official publication, al-Qalam.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed's message appeared targeted towards Islamists in Kashmir, among whom the Inter-Services Intelligence-backed group has long been seeking to expand its reach.

In Srinagar's Soura area, where Islamist-led youth who have barricaded streets with trees and barbed wire, protestors have flown the flag of the Jaish-e-Mohammed on multiple occasions. The protestors have also attacked Central and state police forces who have been seeking to seal the grounds around the Jinaab Sahib shrine.

Home to large numbers of migrants from Srinagar's congested old city neighbourhoods, the traditional bastions of the city's religious right-wing, Soura is among the strongholds of the secessionist movement in Kashmir€"notably registering zero voter turnout in local body elections last year.

Police also came under attack by stone-throwing mobs on Wednesday, when they cordoned off Baramulla's Gani Hamam neighbourhood for a counter-terrorism operation€"the first since Article 370 was abrogated by Parliament.

The operation led to the killing of Lashkar-e-Taiba jihadist Ghulam Rasool Gojri, who was reported to have left his home in the city and joined the terrorist group at the end of July.

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-e-Mohammed's seminaries in Bahawalpur, the sources said, also remained blocked by guards belonging to the organisation.

Last month, a United Nations watchdog raised fears cadre of these jihadist groups were also training with the Taliban in Afghanistan, who it said "cooperate and retain strong links with al Qaeda, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, 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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