Action against Masood Azhar only if India gives solid proof: Pak Minister
Pakistan can act against Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar only if India provides “solid, inalienable evidence” against him that can convince the country’s judiciary, foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said.
Qureshi confirmed Azhar’s presence in Pakistan and said he was confined to his home because of poor health. He said in an interview with CNN aired on Thursday that action can be taken against Azhar only through a “legal process”.
His remarks came against the backdrop of a fresh effort by France, Britain and the US to sanction Azhar at the UN’s 1267 Committee in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack that was claimed by the JeM. Azhar was designated a global terrorist by the US in 2010 and the JeM has been banned by Pakistan and the US.
“He (Azhar) is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house because he is really unwell,” Qureshi said, remarks that were viewed with consternation in official quarters in New Delhi.
Asked if Pakistan will arrest 50-year-old Azhar, Qureshi replied this will depend on evidence provided by India.
“If they give us evidence which is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan – after all, we will have to justify, they will go to the court – and if they have solid, inalienable evidence, share it with us so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan,” he said.
India handed over to Pakistan on Wednesday a dossier with information on JeM and its top leadership and their involvement in several terror attacks. The Pakistan government has said the dossier is being examined.
Replying to a question on whether he doubted the information available about Azhar and his banned organisation, Qureshi said: “It’s not a question of me doubting. There is a legal process and you have to satisfy that legal process.”
Pakistan, he added, is “open to any step that leads to de-escalation” of tensions with India. “If they have good, solid evidence, please sit and talk, please initiate a dialogue and we will show reasonableness,” he said.
Qureshi, who once referred to Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed with the honorific “sahib”, said India has a “historic opportunity” to engage with Pakistan’s current government led by Imran Khan is it has the “complete support of the Pakistan armed forces”.
Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, a former diplomat who served in Pakistan and is a distinguished fellow with Observer Research Foundation, said Qureshi’s response was part of Pakistan’s routine tactic of obfuscating on the issue of tackling anti-India terror groups.
“We gave them evidence so many time and we have got the same old response. They aren’t going to take action against a man and a group that they have trained, nurtured and supported because these guys work in collaboration with the Pakistan Army,” he said.
“Have they prosecuted anyone since the Mumbai attacks? They have no credibility,” he added.