Throwing the ball in India's court, Pakistan on Tuesday said that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar has been under “protective custody” since January 14.
Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz also said it was for India to decide on dates for Foreign Secretary-level talks, postponed in the wake of the terror strike.
Azhar has been named by India as the mastermind of the Pathankot attack.
This is for the first time a top functionary of the Pakistan government has confirmed that Azhar is in custody in that country though there were earlier reports to that effect.
Pakistani authorities had lodged an FIR in connection with the Pathankot attack on February 18, without naming Azhar.
Who is Masood Azhar?
Masood Azhar is the founder and leader of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group based mainly in the Pakistan-administered portion of the state of Kashmir.
He first came into news when in early 1994, Azhar traveled to Srinagar to ease tensions between Harkat-ul-Ansar's feuding factions of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.
India arrested him in February and imprisoned him for his terrorist activities with the groups but released him in exchange for passengers on the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 (IC814) that had eventually landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which at the time the Taliban controlled.
On December 7, 2008, it was claimed that he was among several arrested by the Pakistani government after a military raid on a camp located on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He continued to live in Bhawalpur.
Pakistan's government denied it had arrested Masood Azhar and said it was unaware of his whereabouts.
On Jan 26, 2014, Masood Azhar reappeared after a seclusion of six years. He addressed a rally in Muzaffarabad, calling for the resumption of jihad in Kashmir. His group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, claims he is currently in Srinagar, India.
He was also linked to the Pathankot terror attack for which he was detained by the Pakistani authorities, the disclosure of which was made by Sartaj Aziz to an English Channel.
India had listed Masood Azhar as one of its most wanted terrorists due to his history of militant activities.