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Not aware of Jaish founder Masood Azhar’s arrest: FO

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Thursday that it is not aware of the arrest of Jaish-e-Mohammad’s leader Masood Azhar.

Foreign Office spokesperson Syed Qazi Khalilullah said in a news briefing that, “Pakistan is in touch with India to finalise the date for foreign secretaries level talks in Islamabad.”

Earlier reports had suggested the arrest of Azhar, who has been named by New Delhi as the mastermind of the Pathankot airbase attack.

These media reports had emerged after the government had announced on Wednesday that several individuals belonging to JeM had been apprehended based on initial investigations in Pakistan as well as the information provided.

The government statement, which followed a national security meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifto discuss the actions taken on the leads provided by India, had also said that Pakistan is considering to send a special investigation team to Pathankot, in consultation with the government of India.

At least seven Indian military personnel were killed in the first week of January during an explosion and hours long gunbattle at India’s Pathankot air base near the border with Pakistan.

The attack took place a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a stopover in Lahore to wish Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and attend the latter’s granddaughter’s wedding at Jati Umra.

Giving a policy statement in Senate on the Nawaz-Modi Jati Umra meeting, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on December 27, 2015 said it was decided during the meeting that foreign secretaries of both countries would meet in Islamabad on Jan 14-15, 2016.

Prime Minister Nawaz had later assured 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.

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.

Meanwhile, Qazi Khalilullah also rejected the statement issued by Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Janan Mosazai on Wednesday which said that a majority of militants fleeing operations in Pakistan’s Mohmand and Orakzai agencies joined the Afghan chapter of the militant Islamic State (IS) group.


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