On October 11, Shahid Latif, a notorious figure on India’s most-wanted list of terrorists, was killed at the hands of unidentified assailants in Sialkot, Pakistan. Latif played a pivotal role in orchestrating the 2016 Pathankot terror attack, which claimed the lives of seven security personnel.
Authorities have reported that Latif was killed within the confines of a mosque, and they are currently in the process of ascertaining the identities of the perpetrators. The assailants made a swift escape on a motorcycle, prompting the police to initiate a thorough investigation into this incident.
Latif, associated with the Jaish-e-Mohammed, had from Sialkot guided the 4 terrorists who carried out the terror attack at the Pathankot airbase.
Prior to this, Latif had been serving as a Maulvi at Noot Masjid in Sialkot.
Before getting into who is Latif, let us take you to why he was arrested and released.
Shahid Latif, aged 47, was released from an Indian prison in 2010 during the tenure of the Congress government. He provided logistical and other forms of support to four Pakistani individuals who later carried out the assault on the Pathankot base. This siege endured for a harrowing 72 hours and resulted in the tragic loss of seven military personnel. The four terrorists were subsequently neutralized and recently interred in Punjab, as Pakistan declined to accept their remains.
Hailing from Pakistan, Latif was apprehended in 1996 in Jammu on charges related to narcotics and terrorism. He holds a prominent position within the Jaish-e-Mohammed, an organisation led by Maulana Masood Azhar, who is believed by India to have masterminded the Pathankot attack.
Latif was arrested on terror charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and was put to trial and eventually jailed. He spent 16 years in Kot Balwal, Jammu jail, alongside Masood Azhar.
In an effort to ameliorate relations with Pakistan, Latif was repatriated by the Congress-led government in 2010, alongside nearly 20 other terrorists who returned via the Wagah border in Punjab. A senior source within the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the country’s foremost counter-terrorism agency, stated, “All those released had completed their full sentences in Indian prisons and couldn’t have been retained.”
In 1999, during the hijacking of Indian Airlines plane IC814 to Kandahar, Afghanistan, Latif was among those whose release was demanded by the terrorists. Although unsuccessful, the hijackers did secure the release of Masood Azhar, who would later establish the Jaish-e-Mohammed, along with two others, in exchange for the 189 passengers and crew held hostage for nearly a week.
Following India’s accusation of Jaish-e-Mohammed’s involvement in the Pathankot attack, a delegation of Pakistanis was dispatched to India to scrutinize evidence and interview witnesses. Despite criticism from the opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi permitted their access to the Pathankot base. However, Pakistan has yet to authorize a visit by investigators from the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the nation’s preeminent counter-terrorism agency.
In March 2019, Home Minister, Amit Shah lashed out at Congress for releasing terrorists. In a rally he said, “The fact is that the Congress’ stand on terrorism, separatism and naxalism has always been vacillating. Even senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit has acknowledged that the policies of Manmohan Singh were soft compared to those of the Modi government on terrorism,”
He then asked Congress to explain why the UPA government released 25 terrorists belonging to JeM and LeT on May 28, 2010. He added that one of them – Shahid Lateef – was the main handler of the terror attack at the Pathankot air base in 2016.