Maulana Masood Azhar is in ‘protective custody: Pakistani Minister

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Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister in the Pakistan’s Punjab province, on Thursday said that banned Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, allegedly involved in the Pathankot attack, was in “protective custody” along with his accomplices.

Speaking on a Pakistani TV channel, Sanaullah also said that Maulana Masood Azhar had not been “arrested” as yet.

Earlier, there have been vague media reports that Maulana Masood Azhar was among the people who had been arrested, with India too saying that Pakistan had not informed it about his arrest.

“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,” Sanaullah told the TV channel.

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

India has identified Azhar as the mastermind of the Pathankot attack on January 2. It has also blamed his brother Rauf and five others for carrying out the attack in which seven Indian soldiers were killed along with all the six terrorists.

Pakistani Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday said that the government has arrested several members of the Jaish-i-Mohammad militant group that India suspects of being involved in this month’s attack of an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab.

In a statement, PM Nawaz Sharif office also said that his government wants to send a team of special investigators to Pathankot for further investigation, in consultation with the Indian government.

In the 2 January attack, seven Indian military personnel were killed and 20 were wounded. The attackers were also killed in the battle with the Indian Army.

The statement from the Pakistan PMO was issued after a high-level meeting was chaired by Nawaz Sharif to discuss the country’s security situation.

The PMO statement further elaborated that Jaish-i-Mohammad offices in the country were being traced and sealed.

News of the arrests comes two days before a meeting between the foreign secretaries is scheduled to take place in Islamabad, though there were unconfirmed reports on Wednesday that the meeting might be postponed in the absence of confirmation of the said meeting by the Indian government.

“The meeting expressed national resolve not to allow our territory to be used for acts of terrorism anywhere,” the Pakistan PMO statement said.

It was also noted that “considerable progress” has been made in the investigations, being carried out against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident.

Nawaz Sharif had earlier assured his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that Islamabad would not hesitate to take “prompt and decisive action” if the involvement of Pakistan-based elements in the attack on the Indian airbase was proved beyond doubt.

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