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Pakistan seen taking 'action' against Masood Azhar to ease conflict with India

Maulana Masood Azhar's Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir. (PTI)Premium
Maulana Masood Azhar's Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir. (PTI)

  • Pakistan may even withdraw its opposition to list JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council
  • Move seen as part of measures to ease India-Pakistan conflict, after release of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman

Lahore: The Pakistan government, in order to ease the conflict with India, has decided to launch a crackdown on terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, according to a top government official, even as a media report said that Islamabad may even withdraw its opposition to list him as a global terrorist in UN Security Council.

"The government has decided in principle to launch crackdown on the leadership of the JeM (Azhar)," the official told the Press Trust of India, requesting anonymity. He said the action against JeM in the country is "expected any time soon".

"In order to de-escalate the tensions between India and Pakistan, the Imran Khan government has planned action against the JeM," the person quoted above said.

"This will be another significant move of the Imran Khan government to de-escalate tensions after handing over the captured Indian pilot to his country," he said.

To a question about Azhar's fate, the official said he cannot confirm whether he would be put under house arrest or taken into custody.

According to a media report, a security official hinted that Pakistan may withdraw its opposition to the listing of JeM chief as global terrorist by the UN Security Council.

"The state has to decide whether individual is important or the larger national interest of the country," the official was quoted as saying in the Express Tribune, when asked if Pakistan would no more oppose the UNSC action against Azhar.

The US, the UK and France last week moved a fresh proposal in the UN Security Council to designate Pakistan-based JeM chief Azhar as a global terrorist, a listing that will subject him to global travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.

The Security Council Sanctions Committee will consider within 10 days on the fresh proposal moved by the three permanent veto-wielding members of the 15-nation UN Security Council. The proposal is the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist.

In 2009, India moved a proposal to designate Azhar, whose JeM claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama attack in which over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed.

In 2016 again, India moved the proposal with the P3—the United States, the United Kingdom and France—in the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee to ban Azhar, also the mastermind of the attack on the air base in Pathankot in January 2016.

In 2017, the P3 nations moved a similar proposal again. However, on all occasions, China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, blocked India's proposal from being adopted by the Sanctions Committee.

When contacted for comment on the matter, Pakistan information minister Fawad Chaudhry said: "The government has taken action against the proscribed organisations including JeM in the past and any future action against them will be taken in the light of the National Action Plan (NAP) and our commitments in connection with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and not on Indian pressure," he said.

Asked whether the Pakistan government will take action against the JeM any time soon, the minister didn't rule it out, saying "any action against the proscribed organisations will be taken according to NAP." He said the Punjab government has taken the control of a seminary and a mosque in Bahawalpur as per the NAP requirements.

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