Masood Azhar is the founder and leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a terrorist organisation that operates in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), also known within Pakistan as Azad Kashmir. He is said to have spear-headed four major attacks carried out by the JeM in India. These include the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2016 Pathankot attack and the 2019 Pulwama attack. 

Azhar was born in 1968 in Bahawalpur, Punjab, to Allah Bakhsh Shabbir, a headmaster in a government-run school and was the third of 11 children. After dropping out of school in the eighth grade, he went on to join the Jamia Uloom Islamic school, a school in Karachi that follows the traditions of the Darul Ulaam school. The school was linked with the Harkat-ul-Ansar, a Pakistan-based Islamic terror group that primarily operates in Kashmir. He eventually enrolled for a jihad training camp in Afghanistan.

Azhar travelled to both Somalia and England in 1993. During the trip to Somalia, he met with local terror outfits and brought back mercenaries. His England trip involved spreading the word about jihad among Islamic institutions. Azhar gave speeches at Darul Uloom Bury, an important Islamic institution in the UK.

In 1994, Indian officials arrested Azhar in Khanabal near Anantnag. Indian officials said that Masood was travelling under a fake name. In July 1995, a group of people who called themselves Al-Faran kidnapped six foreigners. They demanded the release of Masood in return for the release of the foreigners. Masood wasn't released, however, until 1999. He was eventually released so as to ensure the safety of the passengers aboard the hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814 in 1999. 

Upon his release, Masood Azhar started his own terrorist organisation, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, with the help of other terror groups like the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. The JeM also obtained help from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan.