Are Pakistan’s anti-terror steps for real? Or will it be another case of one step forward, two steps back?
Those are the questions in India and the United States as Pakistan “confined” Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar to his Bahawalpur house on Monday.
Azhar’s “detention”, reported by The News and confirmed by Pakistan’s Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar on Tuesday, came a day after Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s chief commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was arrested.
However, Bahawalpur police official Azhar Hameed Khokhar told Aaj TV on Tuesday that Azhar’s movements had not been restricted.
Mukhtar told CNN-IBN that India “may be allowed” to interrogate those detained by Islamabad.
Pakistan’s army, under relentless pressure from the US and India, has only said this is an “intelligence-led operation against banned militant outfits and organisations”.
“There have been arrest(s) and investigations are on. Further details will be available on completion of preliminary inquiries,” the Pakistani military said in a statement.
No Pakistani official went on record to say that the “arrests” were in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai strikes.
In the past, Pakistan has detained top terrorists such as Azhar, wanted for the December 2001 Parliament attack, only to release them to carry on with their activities.
New Delhi was wary about the reports of the arrests, saying that it would not like to respond to a Pakistani offer to send a team of investigators to India. “Let’s wait and see what happens,” a South Block official told Hindustan Times.
In Islamabad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi ruled out the handover of Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon — persons whose deportation has been specifically asked for by India. “The arrests are being made for our own investigations,” the minister said. “Even if allegations are proved against any suspect, he will not be handed over to India.”
“We will proceed against the arrested under Pakistani law,” Qureshi said.Separately, Pakistani President Asif Zardari wrote in The New York Times that Sunday’s raids demonstrated that Pakistan would take action against the “non-state actors found within our territory, treating them as criminals, terrorists and murderers”.
“Pakistan is committed to the pursuit, arrest, trial and punishment of anyone involved in these heinous attacks,” Zardari commented.
Zardari also telephoned US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to brief her on actions taken by Pakistan since her visit to Islamabad and New Delhi, Rice’s spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington.
“I’ll let the Pakistani government describe in more detail what those are and what actions they are taking,” McCormack said about the “arrests” in Pakistan. “But we’re seeing some positive steps taking place, and we’re going to be following that situation very closely. As you’ve heard from Secretary Rice…what’s important here is that those responsible for the attacks in Mumbai be brought to justice…what we don’t want to see are future attacks coming -- emanating from Pakistani soil.”
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said there was no doubt that Pakistan had taken some positive steps. It was critically important that the Indians, the Pakistanis, the US and its allies worked together to “prevent follow-on attacks” after the Mumbai terrorist strikes.