Thank God I’m alive: Masood Azhar says in ‘March 4 audio tape’, targets India and Pakistan

“Maulana Masood Azhar, the man who apparently planned and supervised the execution of the attack on India’s Pathankot Air base is quite an enigma and so is his relationship with the Pakistani military establishment and also curiously with the right wing of the Indian establishment, which released him and flew him to Kandahar in December 1999.”

Days after Television news channels, quoting intelligence sources, reported Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar had died at a military hospital in Pakistan, a purported audio message of the Muslim cleric, who India exchanged for hijacked IC 184 flight passengers, flaying both New Delhi and Islamabad, has surfaced on the social media.

The 6: 42 minute audio clip—‘recorded on March 4’– begins with purportedly Azhar stating that the speech was a part of his column ‘Rang aur Noor’, for Jaish’s mouthpiece Al Qalam.

“Thanks to Almighty that I am alive. These days news about my death is doing the rounds… I am alive. Death is a way to reach Almighty,” Azhar, who India says is behind the convoy attack, which killed over 45 paramilitary troops, in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwom, begins by refuting reports about his death.

The 50-year-old Azhar was being treated for liver cancer at an army hospital in Islamabad and died on Saturday, some Indian media had reported.

Azhar recounts his days spent in jails in Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir and accuses India of “issuing threats after facing defeats”. “Such threats from India send Pakistan government in panic,” Azhar is heard saying.

“Attack in Pulwama and capture of pilot were befitting replies to India,” he says while taking about the capture of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman by Pakistani troops after his jet crashed on the other side of the Kashmir border on last Wednesday. The pilot was released by the Pakistan government with Prime Minister Imran Khan calling it a ‘peace gesture’.

Azhar, who intelligence agencies say was a close aide of slain Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, claims the Indian “government’s aggression was a RSS plan for the upcoming parliamentary election” due in less than four months.

He blames the Pakistan “government of bowing down to Indian pressure and making efforts to please them”. “I wish the leadership would understand that this is not the way to deal with India,” Azhar, who is also believed to be behind the attack on Indian Parliament and an Indian Air Force base, says.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said the decision to release IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was not taken under any external pressure or compulsion.

He threatens those opposing him in Pakistan of dire consequences and accuses them of working against the interest of Muslims and Islam.