With India responding positively to action taken by Pakistan and the two countries deciding to reschedule foreign secretary-level talks, Islamabad has confirmed that Masood Azhar, the suspected mastermind behind the Pathankot terror attacks, is under “protective custody”. Pakistan’s Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah confirmed that the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar has been taken into “protective custody” along with his accomplices. However, Mr Sanaullah clarified that Azhar was “not arrested.”
“Masood Azhar has been taken into protective custody by the Punjab police counter-terrorism department,” Mr Sanaullah said. Pakistan government had earlier neither confirmed nor denied the reports that Azhar has been taken into custody. Confirming the reports, Mr Sanaullah said, “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,” Mr Sanaullah added. Reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to combat terror, Mr Sanaullah said the operation against banned outfits including JeM would continue under the National Action Programme.
India has alleged Azhar as the mastermind of the Pathankot attack on January 2. India had also claimed that his brother Rauf and five others were also involved in carrying out the attack in which seven Indian soldiers were killed, along with all the six terrorists. India provided these leads to Pakistan along with two Pakistani phone numbers that received calls from the terrorists.
Taking note of initial positive steps by Pakistan, India has agreed to reschedule the talks between the foreign secretaries in the near future, giving Islamabad some more time to take “credible and comprehensive action” against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attacks.
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