In a big diplomatic win for India on Wednesday, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief and Pakistani citizen Masood Azhar has finally been listed as an international terrorist by the United Nation Security Council's 1267 committee.
Born on July 10, 1968 in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, Azhar is the third of 11 children - five sons and six daughters. Azhar's father was the headmaster at a government-run school and a cleric with Deobandi leanings.
Azhar studied till class 8 and then joined the Jamia Uloom Islamic school from where he became an alim in 1989. The madrasa was working closely with terror group Harkat-ul-Ansar and Azhar soon joined the terror group. He started his journey into the world of terrorism after getting enrolled at a jihad-training camp in Afghanistan.
Azhar, however, failed to complete the course but took part in the Soviet–Afghan War and then soon became the head of Harkat's department of motivation. Azhar then became the general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar and was tasked with recruiting and raising funds for jihadi purposes. He visited several countries, including Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, the United Kingdom and Albania, to collect funds for jihadi purposes.
Azhar entered the UK in August 1993 for a fundraising, and recruitment tour. He used to deliver his message of jihad at some of Britain's most prestigious Islamic institutions. During his stay in the UK, Azhar succeeded in making contacts with people who later provided training and logistical support the terror plots including 7/7, 21/7 and some others.
In 1994, Azhar entered Srinagar under a fake identity. He was sent to India to ease tensions between Harkat-ul-Ansar's feuding factions of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Azhar was arrested by Indian security agencies in February from Khanabal near Anantnag.
In July 1995, terrorists had kidnapped six foreign tourists in Jammu and Kashmir. The kidnappers, who belonged to a terror group named Al-Faran, demanded the release of Masood Azhar among their demands.
One of the hostages managed to escape whilst one was found dead. The whereabouts of others are not known since then. In December 1999, an Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 en route from Kathmandu in Nepal to New Delhi was hijacked by terrorists and landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was under Taliban's control at that time. The hijackers demanded that Masood Azhar and two other terrorists must be released in exchange for freeing the hostages. Indian government gave in to their demand and released Azhar and two other dreaded terrorists. The hijackers of IC814 were led by Masood Azhar's brother, Ibrahim Athar.
After reaching Pakistan, Masood Azhar made a public address in Karachi and spewed venom against India.
Azhar's banned terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed is responsible for a string of deadly attacks inside India, including the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001, Pathankot attack, Uri attack and the February 14 attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama.