Who is killing India's 'most-wanted' in Pakistan?

More than a dozen terrorists, who were on New Delhi’s “most wanted list,” have been mysteriously killed in different parts of Pakistan over the past two years. The Pakistani government and the banned militant organizations associated with it have remained silent about these killings. The militants who were eliminated were affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), the Khalistan movement, or Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM).

In the first two weeks of November, three senior Let/JeM terrorists, including a close aide of Maulana Masood Azhar and the chief recruiter of LeT, were shot dead. This series of assassinations began after a failed attempt on the life of LeT founder and mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Saeed, in Lahore in 2021. The killings followed a similar pattern, where unknown individuals on motorcycles targeted militants accused of terrorism in India.

Pakistani officials involved in the investigations have attributed these killings to the intelligence agency of a hostile country. According to an official familiar with the probes, a hostile spy agency has established a network of local assassins, some of whom are disgruntled former law enforcement personnel, to carry out these targeted killings. The official alleged that India controls this network through operatives stationed in a Gulf state, possibly referring to the UAE.

Both Pakistani authorities and the media have chosen to remain silent about these incidents. After a press conference in 2021 by the then Pakistan Interior Minister, Rana Sanaullah, following a bombing near Hafiz Saeed’s residence in Lahore, Islamabad has downplayed the mysterious assassinations of militants associated with LeT, JeM, HuM, and the Khalistan separatist movement. This is seen as an attempt to conceal the identities of these “most wanted terrorists” in India.

According to Pakistani intelligence sources, over the years, New Delhi has shared the names and whereabouts of several terrorists with Islamabad, and many of these individuals have been killed by unidentified assailants. The reluctance of Islamabad to acknowledge the killing of these militants may be due to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Pakistan has assured the international watchdog on terror financing and money laundering that it will take credible and sustainable action against terror groups operating within its borders.

None of the killed individuals have been officially identified as terrorists by the Pakistani government or media. Recently, Maulana Raheem Ullah Tariq, a JeM leader and close associate of Maulana Masood Azhar, was shot dead in Karachi on November 13. Pakistani media portrayed the incident as the killing of a local cleric. On November 9, former LeT terrorist Akram Khan, also known as Akram Ghazi, head of LeT’s recruitment cell, was shot dead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bajaur tribal district. Pakistani media referred to him as a “muezzin,” someone who proclaims the call for daily prayers. On November 5, Khwaja Shahid, also known as Mian Mujahid, was allegedly kidnapped and later found beheaded near the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Shahid was a prominent LeT figure and one of the masterminds behind the 2018 terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Sunjuwan, which claimed seven lives. In October, Shahid Latif, a former JeM operative and alleged mastermind of the 2016 Pathankot attack, was shot dead by three unknown individuals on a motorcycle in Sialkot, Punjab. Another associate of Latif was killed, and one was injured in the attack.

Other key terrorists who were shot dead by unknown gunmen include Riaz Ahmad (alias Abu Qasim), Maulana Ziaur Rehman, Mufti Qaiser Farooqui, Mullah Sardar Hussain Arain, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, Bashir Ahmad Pir (alias Imtiaz Alam), Syed Noor, Syed Khalid Raza, and Mistry Zahoor Ibrahim (alias Zahid Akhund).

Roy Walsh

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