masood azhar
In picture: Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar.Reuters

After rumour mills on Sunday, March 3, went on an overdrive speculating that Masood Azhar had died, it has now been reported that the chief of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed is alive and has been moved out of the Pakistan Army's Rawalpindi base hospital. Pakistan had earlier said that Azhar was "really unwell" and could not even "leave his house."

The JeM chief, said to have been undergoing treatment at the hospital for a renal issue for the last several months, has now been moved to a Jaish camp in Goth Ghanni in Bahawalpur, an intelligence source told the Times of India. Azhar was reportedly moved around 7.30 pm on Sunday.

It was widely speculated that the JeM chief had died of injuries sustained during the Indian Air Force's February 26 strike in Balakot and that Islamabad was using Azhar's illness as a means to cover up its embarrassment. The rumour blew up after a blogpost claimed that Azhar and Colonel Salim of the ISI had sustained injuries during the strike, and that the JeM chief had succumbed on March 2.

However, shortly after the shift, JeM released a statement refuting Azhar's death and said that he was alive and doing well. The terror group also admitted that its training camp at Balakot had been hit by the IAF, but said that the strike had failed to kill anyone present there.

"India's fighter jets, with Israeli guided missiles, attacked us but Allah's angels diverted them and protected us," the group said.

JeM also went on to lash out at Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and said that he had begun favouring India and had been targeting his own people. "First they released the Indian pilot and now they have decided to crack down on our seminaries. They are being soft towards the enemy (India) but tough on their own people (Jaish)," TOI quoted the statement as saying. The group also asked its members to be prepared for migration and that a new struggle could begin as it believed that Khan was following in the footsteps of former President General Pervez Musharraf, who had ordered a crackdown on terror groups after the 9/11 attacks.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood QureshiSpencer Platt/Getty Images

Pakistan has often been slammed by several nations in the past for creating a safe haven for terrorists, but it had denied that terrorists were breeding on its soil. However, in a surprise move on February 28, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister of Pakistan, admitted that Azhar was indeed in Pakistan and was facing serious health issues.

"He [Azhar] is in Pakistan, according to my information," Qureshi said in an interview with CNN. "He is very unwell, unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house." He also added that Islamabad was ready to take action against JeM and Azhar if India could provide "solid, inalienable evidence" to prove that the group was carrying out terror activities and was behind the Pulwama attack.

"If they [India] give us evidence which is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan, after all we'll have to justify, they will go to court. If they have solid, inalienable evidence, share it with us so we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan," Qureshi added.

In another interview with the BBC, the Pak foreign minister said that they were not sure if the JeM was behind the February 14 Pulwama attack. "We are not sure of that," he said. "You are not sure Jaish-e-Mohammed is not based in Pakistan? They have claimed responsibility for the attack," the interviewer asked, to which Qureshi replied, "They have not... There is confusion on that. The confusion is (that) the leadership (of JeM) when contacted, said no."

While he sounded very cautious while speaking to CNN, the BBC interview caught him off guard when he asked, "Contacted by who?" Qureshi was then seen fumbling and trying to cover up saying: " people over here...they say...they denied...they denied that...That's the confusion. The people...the people who are known to them. They...they claim no responsibility."