124 arrested in Pakistan after Mumbai attacks: Gilani aide (Lead)

January 15th, 2009 - 6:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Jan 15 (IANS) Pakistan Thursday said that 124 people have been arrested following a crackdown on terror groups alleged to be linked to the Mumbai terror attacks, and added that Azhar Masood, chief of banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, was not in the country.Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik told a press conference that the government launched a probe into the Mumbai attacks soon after the incident and as part “of our efforts we banned Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD) publications and shut down six websites and arrested 124 people for their involvement in militancy”.

Malik said that the law enforcing agencies throughout the country had arrested 124 people belonging to JuD including its chief Hafiz Saeed, Colonel (retired) Nazir Ahmed, Amir Hamza, the editor of Ghazwa, Mufti Abdul Rehman and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

He said that their publications monthly Al-Dawa, Zarb-e-Taiba, weekly Ghazwa, Nane-Mujahid and Al-Rabita magazine have also been banned. The government has also closed down all websites of JuD including their main website www.jamatdawah.org that used to carry messages by the organisation’s leadership.

Malik said that 22 offices, two libraries, 87 schools, seven madrasas and five camps suspected to be used for training have been dismantled in Punjab.

He said that Pakistan was taking action on information provided by India but “we should not be in a hurry”.

“Masood Azhar is not in Pakistan and we are also trying to locate him,” Malik said. He said that his government was committed to act against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

He said that both Pakistan and India are nuclear states and need to act “with responsibility”.

The adviser with minister rank, who is considered a close confidante of President Asif Ali Zardari, said that the government understands that the Indian government is under tremendous public pressure.

Malik said that Pakistan had assured India at every level of its “unconditional support to India in the Mumbai probe”.

He urged India to establish direct diplomatic channels with Pakistan for the exchange of information on Mumbai attacks instead of using indirect channels.

Earlier Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had said that the Indian dossier on the Mumbai attacks was sent to Pakistan through the Central Intelligence Agency of the US.

“We need to talk and interact directly rather than opting for third channels,” the adviser said while criticising the Indian move of involving other countries in the process of sharing information and evidence regarding the attacks.

He hoped that India would positively think and respond to Pakistan’s offer of direct talks.

“I hope we’ll soon get a very positive response,” said Malik, adding that the government was fully aware of the sensitivity of the issue.

He said that neither country should fall prey to the “nefarious designs of terrorists who do not want improvement in relationship” between the countries.

Malik said that India should be confident that investigations will be done transparently but “we will be needing more information”, adding that the government will “enquire without any prejudice”.

He said that investigation team comprises officers who have good experience in counter terrorism. He said that this team is headed by a person with the rank of inspector general of police and he himself was monitoring the probe.

Malik said that investigations will be held under the auspices of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in accordance with the 1974 act that mandates the agency to investigate “such acts of crime committed by Pakistani national”.

Referring to Indian leadership’s recent statements, he said: “We are here to assist you, we are committed to fight common enemy. We are with you in this critical time, we will support you.”

Malik, who was very cautious in selection of words, said that he has been authorized by the president and the prime minister to address the press conference.

“Yes I have been authorised by them,” he replied to a question on whether he had sought the prime minister’s approval.

Last week Gilani sacked his national security adviser for announcing, without his approval, that Ajmal Kasab is a Pakistani national.

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