Associate professor, Georgetown University; Author, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War
Most analysts contend that the recent Jaish-e-Mohammad attack on an Indian military base in Pathankot was primarily aimed to derail a nascent peace process between India and Pakistan following Prime Prime Minister Narenda Modi's surprise visit to Lahore, in Pakistan's Punjab, last month. While in the tactical sense this is true; there can never be any meaningful peace process with Pakistan because Pakistan's military cannot abandon its baseless claims on Kashmir or accept India as the dominant power in the region. This interpretation of the attack as "peace spoiler" misses the strategic element of the ISI's revival of Jaish-e-Mohammad (usually referred to as "Jaish"), which has been long dormant following a split in the organization in 2001 when the rump of the outfit decided to focus their weapons on the Pakistani state. As I have argued elsewhere, Pakistan's refurbishing of this outfit is not only about prosecuting Pakistan's regional strategies, but it is also a critical component of Pakistan's domestic security strategy.
Jaish-e-Mohammad is a Deobandi Islamist terrorist group with close ties to the Deobandi Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, anti-Shia groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi/Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan, and al Qaeda. Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) created Jaish by working with several Deobandi terrorists associated with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen to hijack Delhi-bound Indian Airlines flight 814 after it departed Kathmandu in late 1999. The aircraft eventually landed in Kandahar, the base of Afghanistan's Taliban, where terrorists agreed to free the surviving passengers upon the release of three Pakistani terrorists incarcerated in India: Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar.
Indian officials delivered these terrorists to Kandahar from which they traveled to Pakistan reportedly ISI escort. After the ISI paraded them about Pakistan as celebrities, Azhar resurfaced in Karachi in January 2000 when he announced the formation of the Jaish from the remnants of other Deobandi terrorist groups. Pakistan's ISI the Jaish to up the ante in Kashmir and to serve as a competitor to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which the ISI also raised and deployed to Kashmir in the early 1990s to escalate the violence in the state. While LeT pioneered the "high risk mission," the Jaish pioneered the use of suicide attacks in Kashmir in April 2000 in Badami Bagh.