Pakistan shuts down religious schools after Jaish chief Azhar's 'arrest'

15 January 2016

Maulana Masood AzharIn perhaps the first signs that Pakistan means business, authorities in the Punjab province have shut down several religious schools run by the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group accused of masterminding the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.

The crackdown in Punjab province, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's power base and the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad, follows the arrest this week of the militant group's leader Maulana Masood Azhar and several members of the militant group.

Rana Sanaullah, law minister Pakistan's Punjab province, on Thursday confirmed that banned Jaish-i-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar has been taken into "protective custody" along with his accomplices, but clarified he is "not arrested".

"Masood Azhar has been taken into protective custody by the Punjab police counter-terrorism department," Sanaullah told Dawn News.

Earlier, the government chose not to confirm or deny the reports that Azhar has been taken into "protective custody".

"We have taken Maulana Azhar and his fellows under protective custody in connection with the Pathankot incident. However, we will arrest him if his involvement in the Pathankot attack is proved," Sanaullah said.

Officials of the counter-terrorism department raided the Jamiatul Nur seminary in the Daska area on Thursday and arrested more than a dozen people, reports quoted Sanaullah as saying.

He added that operation against banned outfits including JeM would continue under the National Action Programme.

India has identified Azhar as the mastermind of the 2 January attack on Pathankot . It has also blamed his brother Rauf and five others for carrying out the attack in which seven Indian soldiers were killed along with all the six terrorists.

India has shared this information along with two Pakistani phone numbers that the terrorists have made calls to.

According to reports, security agencies have arrested 31 activists of JeM from different parts of the province.

After a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday, his office issued a statement which said that "several individuals" belonging to JeM have been apprehended in connection with the Pathankot terror attack and some of its offices traced and sealed.

Pakistan foreign office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah told a news briefing that the two sides were holding consultations to reschedule the talks.

 search domain-b