Kabul: Pakistan’s foreign ministry has contacted the Taliban 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.
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.
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.
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.