Pakistan has claimed to have detained close relatives of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar along with dozens of other terror suspects, according to news agency Reuters. Pakistan-based News Channel Dunya News reported that 44 members of banned terror outfits have been arrested as part of a new crackdown against terror groups. The channel has quoted the Pakistan Interior Ministry as saying.
Mufti Abdur Rauf, brother of Azhar, and Hammad Azhar are 44 people arrested during the crackdown, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi said at a press conference Islamabad. He said a dossier shared by India with Pakistan last week also contained names of Mufti Abdur Rauf and Hammad Azhar.
The crackdown on banned groups came amid tensions with India following a suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14 by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers. India handed over a dossier to Pakistan to take action against the JeM, as pressure mounted on Islamabad to take action against individual and organisation listed by the UN Security Council as terrorists.
The minister, however, said the action was not taken due to any pressure. He said the action would be taken against all the proscribed organisations under the National Action Plan. He said the crackdown will continue for two weeks and actions against the arrested members will be taken on the basis of evidence.
The minister said his government's policy is that Pakistan's soil will not be allowed for terror activities against any one. The move came a day after Pakistan on Monday promulgated a law to streamline the procedure for the implementation of the UN sanctions against individuals and organisations.
Interpreting the order, Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said the order means that the government has taken over the control of assets and properties of all banned outfits operating in the country.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi recently accepted on television that Masood Azhar was in Pakistan and that he was not well. Another report from Islamabad said the JeM founder was undergoing dialysis in a Pakistan army hospital.
The Jaish-e-Mohammad chief was a close associate of Osama bin Laden, terror motivator in several African countries and also known by many as the Pakistani cleric who brought jihad into the religious discourse at mosques in the UK, the official said.
The JeM was reactivated in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, a year after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The group had constituted a special 'Afzal Guru squad' to avenge his hanging.
The influence of the 50-year-old overweight terrorist mastermind was so huge that, when he was released by India in exchange for freeing the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft IC-814 on December 31, 1999, in Kandahar, Laden hosted a banquet for him the same night.
(With PTI inputs)