Masood Azhar in custody but not arrested: Pak minister

RSTV Bureau

PATHANKOT-TERROR-ATTACK-0405A day after Pakistan foreign office claimed they have “no information” on Maulana Masood Azhar, founder-in-chief of the dreaded terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM), one of its senior leader said he is under “protective custody”. JeM is alleged to have masterminded the dastardly terror attack on Pathankot air base on January 1. Incidentally, ‘action’ against Azhar came hours after Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary level talks were deferred after both the sides mutually agreed to reschedule the talks.

Pakistan’s Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah early on Friday confirmed that Masood Azhar has been taken into what is been termed as “protective custody”. Though, at the same time he clarified that Masood is “not arrested”.

“Masood Azhar has been taken into protective custody by the Punjab police counter-terrorism department,” Mr. Sanaullah told the Pakistan press.

The statement from Pakistan’s senior politician had come a day after it maintained an elusive stand on Azhar with its Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah ruling out any information on action against him. The reports of his detention and even arrest were reported by the Pakistan press on Wednesday but no official confirmation was stamped on the same.

“We have taken Maulana Azhar and his fellows under protective custody in connection with the Pathankot incident. However, we will arrest him if his involvement in the Pathankot attack is proved,” Rana Sanaullah added further sharing information on ‘action’ against JeM chief.

The provincial minister also told the Pakistan press that operation against banned outfits including JeM would continue under the National Action Programme.

Early on Wednesday, Pakistan agencies detained several individuals belonging to terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhhamed, which is alleged to be behind dastardly terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase on January 1. Some of JeM’s offices were also sealed, claimed Pakistan in a statement released by its Prime Minister’s Office.

The action from Pakistan was reported after its PM Nawaz Sharif summoned a high-level meeting to review the situation with the shadow looming over the fate of FS-level talks.

India has identified JeM founder-in-chief Maulana Masood Azhar as the mastermind of the terror attack on Pathankot air base. Seven security personnel, including a Lt Col. rank NSG officer, were killed as they eliminated six terrorists in a near three day intermittent gun battle.

The Government of India has also blamed Masood’s brother Rauf and five others for carrying out the attack.

India is seeking action on part of Pakistan soon after the JeM-link to Pathankot terror attack became clear. PM Modi had firmly conveyed his Pakistan counterpart after the latter had called up at the time of terror attack.

(With inputs from the PTI)