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JeM chief Masood Azhar in ‘protective custody’, assures Pakistan

Azhar was placed in custody “a few days after” the attack, said Aziz, the adviser on foreign affairs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2016 09:58 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Maulana Masood Azhar,Masood Azhar,JeM
Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz has said that JeM chief Masood Azhar has been taken into “protective custody”.(File Photo)

Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar was taken into “protective custody” after the assault on Pathankot airbase and one of the mobile phone numbers linked to the attackers was traced to the terror group’s headquarters, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz has said.

Azhar was placed in custody “a few days after” the attack, said Aziz, the adviser on foreign affairs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He rejected India’s charge that Pakistan had taken no action over the January 2 attack that killed seven people.

On Friday, Pakistani authorities registered a First Information Report in connection with the Pathankot attack, which India has blamed on the JeM and its chief. The FIR, however, made no mention of the JeM or Azhar, who allegedly masterminded the strike.

The FIR mentions five Pakistani mobile phone numbers that were called by the attackers from the Indian side.

In this file photo, Azhar is seen addressing a press conference in Karachi. (AFP)

Aziz said during an interview with India Today channel that one of the mobile numbers provided by India was active and had been traced to the JeM’s headquarters in Bahawalpur.

“The FIR is only a first stage report and subsequent FIRs will definitely carry names,” he said.

Pakistani authorities took time to file the FIR because “whenever a crime happens across the border in another country, it’s much more difficult to pursue the legal requirements because you don’t have all the location or evidence”, he said.

“The special investigation team had to investigate the telephone numbers or whatever links were available and find out who could be (behind the attack),” he added.

Aziz said India has agreed in principle to allow Pakistan’s special investigation team to visit Pathankot. The team is likely to visit Pathankot by the end of February or in March.

“Even the identity of those attackers who died in Pathankot has not been established. So this is the first step of the investigation and as additional evidence is provided, once the investigation team visits India, then obviously names will happen and whosoever is responsible will be acted against...,” he said.

Rubbishing Pakistani- American Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley’s deposition to a Mumbai court, Aziz described him as a drug peddler whose statements cannot be taken seriously.

“Pakistan is not worried by Headley’s deposition. He has no credibility. He is a double agent and a drug peddler,” Aziz said.

Aziz further said there is no evidence to suggest LeT founder Hafiz Saeed was involved in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. He even praised the “humanitarian” work being carried out by Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah, which the UN Security Council has declared a front for the LeT.

Pakistan, he said, will propose to India the joint withdrawal of troops from the Siachen glacier when talks between the two countries resume. He stopped short of saying that Pakistan could agree to signing a map showing actual positions held by troops from both sides.

India and Pakistan should work together to strengthen SAARC and New Delhi should shun its obsession with terrorism, Aziz said. “India is obsessed with terror, but India and Pakistan must cooperate to tackle adverse US trade pacts and build up SAARC,” he said.

Aziz was critical of the Indian media and said it should present a balanced view while reporting on bilateral ties.

First Published: Feb 22, 2016 20:28 IST