Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi admitted that Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar is in Pakistan and that he is “unwell to an extent that he cannot leave his house.” In an interaction with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, Qureshi said, “Azhar is in Pakistan. According to my information, he is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house, because he’s really unwell.”
Masood Azhar is the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad – the organisation that has carried out multiple attacks on India over the last nearly two decades, including the recent Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF officers. India has been repeatedly trying to list him as a “global terrorist” at the United Nations Security Council. However, China has single-handedly blocked all attempts of India.
Qureshi also said that Pakistan will take action against him if presented with “evidence that can stand in a court of law.” “If they have solid, inalienable evidence that is acceptable to courts of Pakistan, share it with us so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan,” the foreign minister said, adding that there is a “need to satisfy the legal process.”
During the interaction, Qureshi also added that the release of captured IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman is a “peace gesture” and must be seen as Pakistan’s “willingness to de-escalate.” Varthaman, who in Pakistan’s custody since Wednesday is likely to be released along Wagah border today.
India had started pushing for Azhar’s listing since 2008-09, after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The most recent effort began after India blamed JeM for the attack on the IAF base in Pathankot on January 2, 2016, and proposed a month later to designate Azhar as a global terrorist. The United States, United Kingdom and France have now moved a fresh proposal against Azhar.
If the proposal is passed at the UNSC, Azhar will be tagged as a ‘UN-designated global terrorist’, which in turn would subject him to a global travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.
Amid the rising tensions between the two countries, India has handed over a dossier to Pakistan with “specific details of JeM complicity in Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan.” It also contains details of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar’s anti-India speeches and claims of attacks by Jaish on security forces in the past two years, official sources said.
Besides Pulwama, India also presented nine specific instances when JeM conducted rallies and religious congregations in Pakistan “right under the nose of the Pakistan government” to indoctrinate and recruit men by instigating them against India.