ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has arrested members of a militant group and detained its leader’s relatives, following a suicide attack that killed Indian troops and brought both countries to the brink of war.
The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack in the disputed Kashmir region, prompting a furious India to launch an airstrike.
Pakistan retaliated by launching its own incursion that ended with an Indian fighter jet being downed and its pilot being captured.
On Tuesday Pakistan’s interior minister said that two relatives of JeM leader Masood Azhar had been placed in “preventive detention” and that the move was part of a fresh crackdown on militancy.
“We have taken 44 under-observation members of proscribed organizations, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hamad Azhar, in preventive detention for investigation,” Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi told the media.
Pakistan has been under pressure from India and other global powers to act against militants accused of carrying out cross-border terrorism.
The recent standoff was regarded as the worst in decades between the two countries although tensions have eased, with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan returning the captured pilot to India last week.
India handed a dossier to Pakistan about the suicide attack and demanded action, especially against the JeM for its involvement. The Interior Ministry detained 44 members including Raoof and Azhar, who are the brother and son of the JeM leader.
“Names of all those arrested are included in the dossier (shared by India), and if we find any evidence against them, further legal action will also be initiated,” said Interior Ministry Secretary Azam Suleman.
But India had not provided any evidence for all the claims it had made in its dossier, he added, denying that Pakistan had acted under pressure.
“This is Pakistan’s decision without any pressure from any other country. We have initiated across-the-board operations targeting all proscribed organizations.”
Pakistan on Monday said it was freezing accounts and seizing assets linked to organizations banned by the UN Security Council, in line with the Financial Action Task Force’s guidelines.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, and the region remains a flashpoint between them.
Retired army general and security analyst, Amjad Shoaib, said Pakistan wanted to get rid of all militant groups.
“As per the consensus of all policymakers, Pakistan is moving ahead to de-radicalize members of militant outfits and mainstream them through a process. This is in our national interest,” he told Arab News.