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Balakot camp: Pakistan’s and Its Deception Games
  • Balakhot camp
    Balakhot camp
So Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Masood Azhar is finally a UN proscribed terrorist; despite consistent attempts by Pakistan to use 'all weather friend' China to block his listing for 10 long years. While the Indian media has been euphoric in its reporting of the development, I doubt there will be any actual change in Pakistan's policy of using terror groups as strategic assets. Even though Prime Minister Imran Khan recently went on record to state that Pakistan did not have use for militant Jihadi groups anymore, thereby admitting that the Pakistan military establishment had been using these groups, the indicators from Pakistan tell a different story.

On April 10, i.e. 42 days after the Indian Air Force strike on Balakot, Pakistani authorities organized the visit of foreign media and defence attaches of foreign missions in the country to visit the site of the strike. Pakistani officials briefed  that the site, which India had claimed to be a Jaish training camp was actually an Islamic school ( Taleem ul Quran madrassa) for children and this property had faced no damage in the so called strikes by the Indian Air Force. As per media reports,  the visitors had to walk for an hour and a half uphill to reach the madrassa. On reaching the site they were shown one large building that showed no signs of damage and around 200 students at the madrassa. A few media reports were accompanied by photographs, showing students attending a class and one of the exterior of the building were these classes are held. The visit lasted 20 minutes.

Comparison of the few images of the recent Pakistan Army sponsored excursion and photos taken in 2018 of the Jaish camp in Balakot indicate that the visitors were indeed taken to the site of the camp. For those who have read my article in the First Post dated March 11 titled "Pakistan lied about Balakot Camp" (, the building that was shown to the diplomats and journalists is marked as the  'Hall' in the illustration of the terror camp site provided in the article. This hall was being used to provide training in Islamic theology to the younger students, who were still in the initial stages of their training. However, it is unlikely that the visitors were taken to that rear side of the camp that housed the mujahids and were they were trained. 

Photos dating to 2018 of the exterior of the 'Hall' that I have in my possession and the latest taken by the visiting journalists clearly show that the building has been spruced up and possibly given a fresh coat of paint. Another addition noticed is a new green board that has been hoisted at the entrance. Further, old photos of the inside of the hall have flags of JeM and posters of the terror group all over the walls. The recent photos show clean walls devoid of any posters or flags.

There is no doubt, the camp has undergone major civil work in the last few weeks. This would explain why the Pakistani authorities needed more than a month to showcase their children's madrassa to the world. A madrassa, which rather than being located close to inhabited areas, was built on a remote hilltop, requiring its young students to undertake a few hours of uphill trekking. 

Sources located in the Balakot area have maintained that the Pakistan Army is in control of the hilltop with locals still not being allowed access. If in case the site was indeed of a madrassa, why is the Pakistan Army stationed there and treating it as a restricted area? 

One of my sources who traveled to the Blue Pine hotel at the foothill of the camp site, sent a photo of the new signboard of the Taleem ul Quran madrassa that had replaced the earlier board that had clearly declared Masood Azhar's links to the madrassa. The new signboard makes no such claims.

As Pakistan continues to try and whitewash its links to terror groups, it exposes its reluctance to take credible steps against this hydra-headed monster of Islamic terror groups that it has created.
Francesca Marino
Balakot camp