India tonight deferred a decision on whether to go ahead with the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan on Friday after the detention of “several individuals” of the dreaded JeM by Islamabad although there was no confirmation of reports that its chief Maulana Masood Azhar was held.
Ministry of External Affairs Ministry officials said after a two-hour meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that it was decided to await the return of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval from Paris tomorrow afternoon for a call to be taken.
Earlier, reports from Islamabad said that Azhar, his brother and “several individuals” belonging to his dreaded terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad which is suspected to have engineered the Pathankot attack, were detained and their offices sealed after India demanded action, linking it to the fate of FS-level talks.
However, late in the night External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said India has received no confirmation of the detention of Azhar.
Mohammad Zubair, a minister in the Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan, told an Indian TV channel that he cannot confirm the arrest of Azhar while Lt Gen (Retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch, minister for frontier regions, said that “Azhar was arrested”. Azhar’s brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has also been detained, Geo TV said.
Swarup had also said that a decision on whether to go ahead with the talks will be taken after the meeting between Modi and Swaraj.
The Pakistani action, which was reviewed at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, came as the fate of the talks hung in balance.
A PMO statement issued in Islamabad after the meeting said it noted with satisfaction that as part of Pakistan’s commitment to eliminate terrorism from its soil and the expressed national resolve not to allow the territory to be used for acts of terrorism anywhere.
It 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 underway,” the statement said.
In the night, the Pakistani government followed up with another announcement of setting up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) comprising security and military officials to probe whether any Pakistani individual or organisation was involved in the Pathankot attack on January 2.
The JIT was set up following an order of Sharif to ensure a thorough and fair probe by Pakistan.
According to an official of the Prime Minister’s Office, the JIT would be led by Additional IG Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Punjab, Rai Tahir.