Masood Azhar’s ‘arrest’ brightens chances for FS talks with India

Masood Azhar

In what could be a major breakthrough paving the day for continuation of dialogue with India, Pakistan is understood to have detained Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and “several individuals” belonging to the terror outfit, the prime suspect in  the Pathankot terror attacks. Pakistan has sealed JeM’s offices after India demanded action and linked it to the fate of foreign secretary-level talks. The decision on FS-level talks is expected to take place today after Indian authorities verify the reports of JeM leader’s arrest.

Pakistan has, however, yet to inform India about these arrests.

Azhar’s brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has also been arrested, according to reports in Pakistani media. According to unnamed Pakistan officials quoted in Pakistani media outlets, Azhar, and two other terrorists who were released from  India in 1999 in exchange for release of 155 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar, have been taken into protective custody after raids on several JeM offices. Pakistan also claims it is considering sending a special investigation team to Pathankot as more information would be required to take the probe forward.  

Pakistan’s action came after a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.  Terrorists belonging to the JeM  are alleged to be behind the Pathankot terror attack on January 2 in which seven security personnel were killed.

An official  statement issued after the meeting in Islamabad said “considerable progress has been made in the investigations being carried out against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident.

“Based on initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several individuals belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad have been apprehended. The offices of the organisation are also being traced and sealed. Further investigations are under way,” the statement said.

 “The meeting reiterated that in line with our decision to counter and completely eliminate terrorism, Pakistan would remain engaged with India on this issue,” the statement said.

Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, Director-General ISI Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and other senior officials attended the meeting.

India has put the ball in Pakistan’s court and linked the FS-level talks to Islamabad’s “prompt and decisive” action in the Pathankot terror attack for which it had provided leads. If the reports of the arrest are true, it could set the stage for the holding of FS-level talks, which are meant to map the way forward for India-Pakistan engagement.

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