JeM chief Masood Azhar under house arrest: report

December 9th, 2008 - 2:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Dec 9 (IANS) Pakistani authorities have placed restrictions on the movement of Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), “by confining him to his multi-storeyed concrete compound in the Model Town area of Bahawalpur”, a media report Tuesday said.”Well-placed official sources say Masood Azhar’s activities have been restricted in the wake of the Indian government’s demand to hand him over to New Delhi,” The News said.

The confinement comes even as Pakistani security forces have launched a crackdown on the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group that India says is responsible for the Mumbai attacks that claimed 172 lives and injured nearly 250.

LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi and 19 of his men were arrested in the crackdown that began Sunday.

The crackdown and Masood Azhar’s confinement come within the 48 hour deadline the US set Sunday for Pakistani action in the wake of the Mumbai mayhem.

Following the attacks, India had given to Pakistan a list of three people - Maulana Masood Azhar, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon - for their immediate extradition.

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), at a meeting here Monday chaired by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, had rejected the demand, saying there was no extradition treaty between India and Pakistan.

Masood Azhar had been released from an Indian prison in exchange for the passengers and crew of an Indian Airlines jet that suspected Pakistanis hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan while on a flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi.

New Delhi also blames him for the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi that almost triggered a war in the sub-continent.

Quoting official sources, The News said New Delhi had sought Masood Azhar’s arrest and extradition while citing a 1989 agreement between India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) “which binds both the agencies to collaborate with each other to trace out the most wanted terrorists and criminals and hand them over to their respective counterpart”.

But, as The News noted, “it is not for the first time that (Masood Azhar’s) movements have been restricted by the Pakistani authorities”.

“Every time the Indian government demands his extradition, he is confined to his under-construction headquarters in Bahawalpur,” the newspaper added.

Soon after Masood Azhar was released, he discarded the Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM) terror group to launch the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

“Since then, having gone through many ups and downs, especially in the wake of the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and the 2003 suicide attacks on (then president) Gen. (Pervez) Musharraf in Rawalpindi, the Jaish had been renamed as Khudamul Islam (KuI) and reorganised under the command of Mufti Abdul Rauf, the younger brother of Masood Azhar”, The News said.

The US State Department had designated the JeM a foreign terrorist organisation in Dec 2001, prompting the Musharraf regime to ban the outfit in January 2002.

Masood Azhar has been formally arrested by the Pakistani authorities only once, on Dec 29, 2001 following the attack on the Indian parliament. However, a three-member review board of the Lahore High Court ordered his release Dec 14, 2002.

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