Masood Azhar's brother, relative among 44 held in Pakistan

Islamabad (IANS) Pakistan on Tuesday detained in a crackdown Mufti Abdur Rauf, the brother of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, along with 43 others affiliated with proscribed Islamist organisations operating in the country.

The crackdown came a day after the Pakistan government issued an order to streamline a process for the implementation of sanctions against individuals and entities of all banned outfits as designated by the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi said in a press conference that the action was taken without any foreign pressure, the Pakistani media reported.

Hammad Azhar, reportedly a close relative of Masood Azhar, was among those arrested in the crackdown.

"In the first phase of our action we have taken 44 people into protective custody. We won't let anyone use Pakistani soil against anyone so that no force can intervene in Pakistan's domestic issues," Afridi said.

The government also froze bank accounts and assets of the organisations banned by the UNSC.

The Interior Ministry said that the actions will continue as per the decisions taken by the National Security Committee (NSC).

Interior Ministry Secretary Azam Suleman Khan said: "This is across the board - we don't want to give the impression that we are against one organisation."

The crackdown is being linked to the suicide bombing claimed by the JeM that killed 40 CRPF troopers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14 and the later IAF bombing of JeM's biggest training camp at Balakot in Pakistan, sending India-Pakistan relations on a nosedive.

A dossier shared by the Indian government with Pakistan last week on Pulwama also mentioned the names of Mufti Abdur Rauf and Hammad Azhar, Khan said. "It does not mean that action is being taken against only those individuals who are mentioned in the dossier.

"If we have to take over any (organisation's) assets, we will do so. Assets can be taken over of organisations already declared as proscribed, under the Anti Terrorism Act, 1997.

"If we obtain any further evidence or if we have to investigate any organisation, the government can take any organisation into custody at any time," said the Interior Ministry Secretary.

Khan, however, claimed that the Indian dossier lacked concrete evidence against any member and that the Pakistani government had demanded evidence against the individuals being linked to the Kashmir suicide bombing. 

Action will be taken against the members if evidence was found during the investigations, he said. "In case we don't find any evidence against them, we will release them." 

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal late Monday said that the government had taken over the control of all proscribed outfits operating in Pakistan.

"From now onwards, all kinds of assets and properties of all banned organizations will be in the government's control," Faisal had said, adding that the government will now also seize the charity wings and ambulances of such banned outfits.

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