Islamabad/ New Delhi: Pakistan has arrested Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and several individuals belonging to the dreaded outfit suspected to have engineered the Pathankot terror attack, on Wednesday.
The outfit’s offices were also sealed after India demanded action, linking it to the fate of the January 15-16 Foreign Secretary-level talks.
Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, minister for frontier regions, confirmed that Azhar was arrested and taken in protective custody to probe the Pathankot attack, Geo TV stated. Azhar’s brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has also been detained, Geo TV added.
Azhar was arrested in Kashmir in 1994, but New Delhi had to release him in 1999 in exchange for passengers of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814, which was hijacked by terrorists and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan.
The reports were received with “cautious optimism” in New Delhi, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a late night meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is in touch with his Pakistan counterpart Naseer Khan Janjua over Islamabad’s actions against JeM and the future course of New Delhi’s engagement with the neighbouring country.
They also purportedly had a meeting in Dubai, though it was not confirmed.
Sources Deccan Herald spoke to late on Wednesday also indicated that New Delhi might not call off India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary level talks, but propose to Islamabad to defer it by a few days, ostensibly to assess actions initiated by the neighbouring country against the JeM.
The meeting, to be held in Islamabad, would mark the resumption of formal bilateral dialogue after a two-year-long hiatus.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday had a meeting with some of his cabinet colleagues and top officials to review the progress of the investigation on the information provided by India.
Chief of Pakistan Army, Gen Raheel Sharif, and Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Director General of Inter Services Intelligence, were present in the meeting.
A statement issued by the Pakistan government confirmed that several JeM members had been arrested following initial investigation based on the information provided by India. “The offices of the organisation are also being traced and sealed and further investigations are underway,” it added. “In spirit of the cooperative approach, it was decided that in order to carry the process forward, additional information would be required, for which the Pakistan government is considering to send a Special Investigation Team to Pathankot, in consultation with the Indian government,” the statement said. The JeM, based at Bahawalpur in Pakistan, was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US State Department in 2001.