A day after admitting that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar is in Pakistan, the country’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made another startling admission – that Islamabad government has been in touch with the banned terror outfit.
Qureshi divulged this during an interview with the BBC after he was pressed about why Pakistan has failed to take any action against JeM despite it claiming responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.
The Pakistan foreign minister claimed that JeM had not said it was behind the terror attack and that “there was confusion over its role”. This, despite the JeM claiming responsibility through a statement issued by its spokesperson.
JeM spokesperson Muhammad Hassan in a statement on the day of the attack, Feb 14, said that “dozens of forces’ vehicles were destroyed”, and identified the driver who carried out the ‘fidayeen’ attack as Aadil Ahmad Dar alias Waqas Commando of Gundi Bagh, Pulwama. The terror group had also released a video of Dar, with Jaish flags in the background, in which he gave reasons for the attack in an anti-India rant.
But Qureshi maintained that Jaish’s hand in the attack was not clear, saying there were conflicting reports.
When asked by the interviewer what conflicting reports, Qureshi let it slip that the Jaish leadership was contacted and they denied responsibility. On being repeatedly asked who contacted the leadership of the proscribed terror outfit, he said that “by people over here, and the people who are known to them.”
Qureshi had on Friday also acknowledged that Masood Azhar, who has masterminded several terror attacks in India, is in Pakistan. But he had claimed that Azhar was really unwell and not in a position to even leave his house.
In an interview with the CNN, Qureshi had said that for the Pakistani authorities to arrest Azhar, India would first have to hand over proof that is “acceptable in Pakistani courts.”
Masood Azhar’s JeM has been behind the attack on the Parliament House in 2001, the Pathankot air force base attack of 2016, the terror strike on army camps in Jammu and Uri in 2016, and the latest suicide attack on CRPF in Pulwama, which escalated the tensions between the two nations.
India had on Wednesday handed over a dossier to Pakistan on Jaish’s role in the Pulwama terror attack, detailing its terror camps operating in Pakistan and the route taken by terrorists from Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to Jammu and Kashmir to mount attacks.
The Indian Air Force had on Tuesday carried out a “pre-emptive, non-military” strike on the JeM camp in Balakot, which was being run by Maulana Yusuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, after Pakistan failed to act against terrorists operating from its soil, the government said.