Pakistan on Wednesday arrested Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and “several individuals” belonging to his dreaded outfit, which is suspected to have engineered the Pathankot terror attack, and sealed its offices after India demanded action, linking it to the fate of foreign secretary-level talks.
Azhar’s brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has been arrested, Geo TV said. While the arrest of several individuals was announced in a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office, there was no official word on Azhar’s detention.
Officials said Azhar, and two other terrorists who were released from an Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for release of 155 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar, has been taken into protective custody after raids on several JeM offices.
Pakistan has also said it is considering sending a special investigation team to Pathankot as more information would be required to carry forward the process of cooperation with India.
The Pakistani action, which was reviewed at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, came as the fate of the FS-level talks scheduled for Friday hung in balance with just two days for foreign secretary S Jaishankar to go to Islamabad for talks with his counterpart on resuming the bilateral dialogue process.
Terrorists belonging to the JeM are believed by India to be behind the Pathankot terror attack on January 2 in which seven security personnel were killed.
A PMO 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.
In the spirit of the cooperative approach, the statement said, it was also decided that to carry the process forward, additional information would be required for which the government of Pakistan is considering sending a SIT to Pathankot in consultation with the government of India.
“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.
Last week, India put the ball squarely in Pakistan’s court, linking the FS-level talks to Islamabad’s “prompt and decisive” action in the Pathankot terror attack for which it has provided “actionable intelligence”.
An official said that close to a dozen militants have been held so far and were being questioned. He refused to give further information like where they have been held or when they could be produced before any court.