Masood Azhar taken into protective custody, confirms Pakistan

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Crucial link Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e- Mohammad
Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e- Mohammad Photo: Reuters

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar has been taken into protective custody along with his associates by the counter terrorism department, said Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

Clarifying to Dawn News that Azhar has not been arrested, he said, “We will arrest him if his involvement in the Pathankot terror attack is proved.”

This is the first official confirmation of Azhar’s detention. The Pakistani foreign ministry said on 14 January that it had no information about his detention.

He added that operation against banned terror outfits, including JeM, would continue under the National Action Programme.

According to reports, security agencies have arrested 31 activists of JeM from different parts of the province.
India has said that Azhar masterminded the Pathankot air base attack on 2 January, and shared two Pakistani telephone numbers that the six terrorists called on, as proof. The terrorists were in touch with the JeM chief’s relatives, who were their handlers, New Delhi has said.

India has identified Azhar as the mastermind of the Pathankot attack. It also blamed his brother Rauf and five others for carrying out the attack.

India along with Pakistan has agreed to reschedule foreign secretary-level talks to the near future, linking it to credible progress in investigation into the Pathankot attack.

Meanwhile, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that India was likely to bring the perpetrators of the Pathankot atack to justice. In this context, “we will proceed by the evidence and on not empty statements. So far what Pakistan has done we welcome”, he said.

He said India looked forward to the proposed visit of a special investigations team from Pakistan, adding that India was willing to share even more evidence.

India and Pakistan NSAs, Ajit Doval and Naseer Khan Janjua, were in regular touch, he said.