A day after he admitted that UN-proscribed terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)’s chief Masood Azhar is in Pakistan and is “very unwell”, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Saturday said the Jaish leadership has denied that they claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir.
This is the first official acknowledgement by Pakistan that it has been in touch with Jaish after the Pulwama attack, in which 40 CRPF men were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a convoy.
His remarks come after Prime Minister Imran Khan has twice assured that Pakistan will investigate and act against Jaish on actionable intelligence if shared by New Delhi. India has handed over a dossier with evidence of Jaish’s operations and involvement.
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In an interview to BBC Urdu, Qureshi said that there was “still confusion” over whether Jaish had claimed responsibility for the attack. “The confusion is (that) the leadership (of Jaish) when contacted, said ‘no’…They have denied that… that’s the confusion,” he said.
Asked who contacted the Jaish leadership, Qureshi said, “People over here, and the people who are known to them.”
He also said that the Punjab provincial government has taken over the “so-called nerve centre” of Jaish in Bahawalpur, Qureshi said: “We will not allow Pakistani soil to be used by any group or any organisation for terrorist activities against any state, including India.”
In an interview to CNN Friday, Qureshi admitted that Azhar is in Pakistan and but said the government can act against him only if India presents “solid” and “inalienable” evidence that can stand in a court of law.
Incidentally, Pakistan’s official media, Radio Pakistan, reported that Saudi Foreign Minister of State Adel Al-Jubeir is likely to visit Pakistan today as part of his efforts to mediate between Pakistan and India amid heightened tension along the Line of Control.
After returning from the OIC Summit in Abu Dhabi, Qureshi said the Saudi minister would visit India and later Pakistan as directed by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. Sources told The Indian Express that there was no visit from Saudi Arabia scheduled.
Qureshi also said that China has decided to send a special envoy to Pakistan and India to meet the leadership of the two countries and help reduce the tension. He had also invited UN Secretary-General António Guterres to visit Pakistan and the region to mediate.
According to sources, Islamabad is trying its best to get third-party involvement between the two countries, but New Delhi is very clear that there is no space for such intervention.