No official word on detention of JeM chief Masood Azhar, says India
New Delhi: India has received no official confirmation from Pakistan on the arrest of Jaish-e-Muhammad chief and the mastermind behind the recent attack on Pathankot Air Force base Maulana Masood Azhar. According to official sources, Pakistan is yet to confirm that Masood Azhar has been detained, India has said.
"We have not received official word on detention of Masood Azhar. A decision (on foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan) will be taken after that meeting," foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters. Swarup was referring to an ongoing meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the fate of the Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two nations scheduled for January 15.
Pakistan-based news channel Geo News had claimed today evening that local authorities had detained Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar. According to the report, he was in protective custody and was being interrogated. The move follows persistent pressure on Pakistan by India to act on the perpetrators of the Pathankot terror attack. India strongly believes JeM to be behind the Pathankot attack.
The report further mentioned that Maulana Masood Azhar's brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has also been taken into protective custody and questioning is under way in connection with Pathankot terror attack. Reports in the Pakistani media did not point to any charges being pressed gaianst the JeM chief.
In an apparent indication of acting on the ‘actionable evidence' provided by Indian authorities on the terror attack in Pathankot earlier this month, Pakistan said today morning that it had arrested several members of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad and sealed their offices.
According to Pakistani media, three offices of the outfit run by Masood Azhar in four cities of Pakistan were sealed in the crackdown by the Pakistani government that saw the arrest of 12 other militants of the Jihadi outfit. Several incriminating materials were also recovered during the raids at these locations.
According to sources, the arrests include two from Thatta, Muzaffargarh; one from Daira Din Panah; one from Sinawan; three from Harunabad in Bahawalnagar; two from a madrassa in Pakpattan; one from the Multan city area and two tohers from a madrassa located in a remote area of Bahawalpur.
The three JeM offices sealed included those at Hiran Wala Kalan, Ugoki (a suburban town of Sialkot district) and a village named Kot Waris. The crackdown also saw raids being conducted at some madrassas. Two preachers have also been detained, with one of them believed to be a brother of the JeM founder.
Pakistan acting on the evidence provided by India comes two days ahead of the Foreign Secretary-level talks scheduled for January 15. Crucially, it comes at a time when there is a shadow of doubt on the talks being deferred by India.
“...considerable progress has been made in the investigations being carried out against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident,” an official statement issued by the Pakistani government to the press noted.
India says it has strong evidence to suspect that the attack was carried out by the JeM. India has also left the fate of the peace process on Pakistan's ability to act against the perpetrators of the ghastly attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on the intervening night of January 1 and 2 that saw seven security personnel being martyred and twenty others injured.
“Based on the initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several individuals belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad, have been apprehended,” the statement added.
According to the release, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today called a high-level meeting to review the prevailing security situation. The meeting was attended by Ministers of Interior and Finance, Chief Minister, Punjab, Advisor on Foreign Affairs, COAS, DG ISI, Corps Commander Lahore, Director General Intelligence Bureau and other senior civil, military and police officials, it said.
Pakistan has also indicated that it could send a team of investigators to Pathankot for further probe. “In the spirit of the cooperative approach, it was also decided that in order to carry the process forward, additional information would be required, for which the Government of Pakistan is considering to send a Special Investigation Team to Pathankot, in consultation with the Government of India,” the statement added.
On Tuesday, Home minister Rajnath Singh had said Pakistan has promised "effective action" vis-a-vis the suspected Pakistani links to the terror attack on the IAF base.
There was "no reason to distrust them so early", the minister told the media, adding that “we should all wait (for Pakistani action)."