New Delhi: India plans to point out the incongruity of Pakistan’s claim that Jaish-e-Mohammad supremo Masood Azhar has been “missing”. Pakistan has claimed his disappearance in numerous Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meetings in the past year. The FATF plenary, which started in Paris on Sunday, will take up the Pakistan dossier for discussion on Friday. Pakistan expects to get about 12 countries to speak in favour of getting it off the ‘grey list’. However, out of the 27 action points that Pakistan needs to take to get there, it still needs to move on 13. In the last review meeting in Beijing in January, Pakistan was judged to have taken satisfactory action on 14 action points.
On Masood Azhar, Pakistan has told FATF that it could not file an FIR against him since he could not be “found”. It has not yet applied for his subsistence allowance from the UN Security Council, after he was proscribed by the 1267 Committee in 2019. The committee allowed Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed to get over Rs 100,000 a month for expenses.
Following the Pulwama suicide attack in February 2019, Pakistan had announced a crackdown on militant groups, including JeM. Seminaries and buildings linked to JeM and other groups had been taken over by the government. Azhar’s brother Abdur Rauf had been taken into preventive detention alongside another relative Hamad Azhar and dozens of others.
Azhar was believed to be in protective custody of the government since 2016 but such reports were not confirmed by authorities. However, he used to release audio messages for his supporters. After Pulwama, he never released any video or audio message and the government also avoided speaking about him and his whereabouts. Since March 2019, government sources claimed several times that he had gone missing.
However, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told an interviewer in the weeks after the Pulwama attack, which was claimed by the JeM, that Azhar was definitely in Pakistan and “unwell”, to the extent that he could not move out of his house. Pakistan had at that time promised to act against Azhar only if India presented “evidence” against him.
“He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house, because he’s really unwell,” Qureshi had said. “If they (India) have solid, inalienable evidence that is acceptable to courts of Pakistan, share it with us so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan. We need to satisfy the legal process,” he had said.