Chief of JeM not taken into custody: Khawaja Asif

ISLAMABAD: On Tuesday, Chief of the proscribed Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) Maulana Masood Azhar was not taken into custody without any lead or reason, said Minister for Defense Khawaja Asif.

Khawaja Asif stated that the non state actors roamed around openly and put the security of the country in jeopardy this Pakistan cannot afford.

Maulana Masood Azhar news about taken into custody did not come without any lead or reason at this stage, said Khawaja Asif while speaking to the media persons outside the parliament.

Exchange of information is underway between the two sides over the armed attack on India’s Pathankot airbase on January 2, he said.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday confirmed that Jaish I Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar is under ‘protective custody’.

When asked if his custody can be termed an ‘arrest’, the provincial law minister explained that Azhar will only face arrest and legal action if his involvement in the Pathankot attack is proved beyond doubt.

As Pakistan on Wednesday announced the arrest of Jaish members and started sealing the organization’s offices, some media reports had suggested the arrest of Azhar, who has been named by New Delhi as the mastermind of the Pathankot airbase attack.

Azhar was arrested in India in February 1994. But India was forced to release him and two others Mushtaq Zargar and Umar Sheikh in Dec 1999 in exchange for passengers and crews of an Indian flight that was hijacked by militants linked to Harkatul Mujahideen from Kathmandu and forced to land in Kandahar.

Maulana Azhar’s brother Rauf is believed to have masterminded the hijacking.

After his return to Pakistan, Maulana Azhar split with Harkatul Mujahideen in 2000 and formed his own militant outfit Jaish-i-Mohammad.

The investigation into the Jan 2 airbase attack in India apparently entered a critical phase on Wednesday amid reports of the arrest of Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Police and security agencies refused to confirm the arrests. Officials in Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rahimyar Khan and Multan, where these arrests were initially believed to have taken place, were totally unaware of any such development in their areas.

Bahawalpur DPO Sarfaraz Ahmad Falki expressed ignorance about house arrest of Maulana Azhar or any other arrests in his district.

Having pledged to investigate and act on any evidence found or shared on the involvement of Pakistani individuals in the Pathankot attack, the government claims to have detained alleged members of Jaish-e-Mohammad and sealed so-called offices of the banned militant group.