Pakistan asks Taliban setup to trace and arrest JeM chief Masood Azhar: Report

Updated on Sep 14, 2022 04:23 AM IST

The Pakistani side has written a letter to the Taliban’s foreign ministry asking authorities in Afghanistan to locate and arrest Masood Azhar. The letter states that Pakistani authorities believe Azhar is ‘hiding somewhere in Afghanistan’.

Taliban fighters celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan, in Kabul. (AP)
Taliban fighters celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan, in Kabul. (AP)
By, New Delhi

Pakistan’s foreign ministry has contacted the Taliban setup in Afghanistan to trace and arrest Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, according to a Pakistani media report on Tuesday.

The move comes against the backdrop of pressure on Pakistan from Western powers to act against Azhar, a UN-designated terrorist leader who formed JeM after Indian authorities freed him along with two other terrorists in exchange for the passengers of an Indian Airlines flight that was hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999.

The Pakistani side has written a letter to the Taliban’s foreign ministry asking authorities in Afghanistan to locate and arrest Azhar. The letter states that Pakistani authorities believe Azhar is “hiding somewhere in Afghanistan”, Geo News channel quoted an unnamed Pakistani official privy to the developments as saying.

The letter pointed out Azhar is “mostly likely hiding” in Nangarhar province or Kunar province of Afghanistan. It was yet to be confirmed whether Azhar moved to Afghanistan before the Taliban assumed power in Kabul in August 2021 or after that, the report said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson did not comment on the development, the report said.

There was no immediate response to the development from Indian officials.

Earlier this year, Western powers backed India’s call at a meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for action against 30 key terrorist leaders, including Azhar, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and LeT operative Sajid Mir.

Pakistan had contended for months that Mir was dead before authorities confirmed his arrest earlier this year. Mir was subsequently convicted under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act for being a member of the banned LeT, raising funds for the group, and providing funds for terror activities.

The FATF conducted an “on-site visit” to Pakistan from August 28 to September 2 to review the country’s compliance with the multilateral watchdog’s action plans for countering terror financing and money laundering. This came ahead of Pakistan’s likely removal from FATF’s “grey list” at a meeting to be held in October.

The Pakistani side had informed FATF earlier this year that authorities believed Azhar was on the run and had fled to Afghanistan, where JeM operates at least eight training camps in Nangarhar province.

Pakistan banned JeM in January 2002, when the country was ruled by military dictator Pervez Musharraf. In 2019, Pakistan’s interior ministry had banned Al-Rehmat Trust of Bahawalpur and Al-Furqan Trust of Karachi as front organisations of JeM.

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