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Restrictions put on Masood Azhar

Nirupama Subramanian

He has been confined to his house in Bhawalpur



Maulana Masood Azhar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has confined Maulana Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief wanted by India, to his home in Bhawalpur in the south Punjab province, an unconfirmed report in a Pakistani newspaper said on Tuesday.

No confirmation

There was no official confirmation of the restrictions on the JeM founder-leader, and it remained unclear if his confinement, reported by The News daily, was a house arrest in the legal sense of the term.

The only word has come from the country’s Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, who told an Indian television channel that Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Azhar had been “picked up.”

Mastermind in custody

Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, is said to have been among the several LeT cadres taken into custody in Sunday’s raids on a “centre” run by the outfit near the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad, but again there has been no official word about this.

Two residents of Bhawalpur, who cannot be named, reported no unusual activity or the presence of police or security forces around the Model Town home where Azhar’s family lives.

He has not been seen in public in Bhawalpur, even though his outfit has a high profile in the town despite the ban on it.

Earlier this year, the JeM – it now goes by the name Khudam-ul-Islam and is headed by Azhar’s younger brother Abdul Rauf — held a public meeting to launch a book authored by Azhar. It is not known if he attended the meeting.

Freed in swap

Azhar, who was under arrest in India, was freed by the Indian government in 1999 as part of a negotiated deal with the hijackers of IC 814.

The only time Pakistani authorities arrested him was in December 2001 after a U.S. ban on the group, but he was released in December 2002.

Speaking in his hometown Multan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said handing over any Pakistani to India was “out of the question.” He confirmed the arrests in the raids on Sunday.

“The arrests are being made for our own investigations. Even if allegations are proved against any suspect, he will not be handed over to India,” the Foreign Minister said.

“We will proceed against those arrested under Pakistani laws.”

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Corrections and Clarifications

(A report "Restrictions put on Masood Azhar" (December 10, 2008, page 1) said (first paragraph) that Pakistan has confined Maulana Masood Azhar, the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief wanted by India, to his home in Bhawalpur in the south Punjab province. It is Bahawalpur.)

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