Masood Azhar was born on July 10, 1968 to a Pakistani couple, in the princely state of Bahawalpur. From being the son of a government school headmaster to a brief stint with teaching himself, Azhar’s metamorphosis from a clergyman to a dreaded terrorist began in a madarsa.
He was introduced to the jihadi movement when he joined the Binor madarsa and since, there was no looking back.
Azhar came under the influence of a Harkat-ul-Ansar militant and expressed his interest to join the Afghan jihad. He tried his luck at joining the army but is believed to have failed at completing his military training, as he was deemed physically weak. But undaunted by the failure, he fought in the war against Russia and was injured.
After his failed military stint, he formally joined the militant outfit Harkat-ul-Ansar and was made the head of its motivation department. Azhar’s role was simple – to radicalise youth into pledging support to the jihadi movement. His was considered a great orator and was sent across the world to deliver speeches. He visited countries like Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia and even the United Kingdom.
Unlike most militants, Azhar did not cross into India illegally but flew to Srinagar in 1994 and met other militants. He soon began to form his own base in the valley, but his activities were briefly put to a halt when India arrested him on terrorism charges.
In 1999, India was forced to release him in exchange for passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814.
It was after his release that Azhar began to head the Pakistan based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad and has been active ever since then.