MINISTER of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi addressing the press conference.—White Star
MINISTER of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi addressing the press conference.—White Star

• Minister of state for interior says action is under way across the board, though some of those taken into ‘preventive custody’ are named in Pulwama attack dossier handed by India
• Formal notification to ban Jamaatud Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniyat issued after Afridi’s press conference

ISLAMABAD: Forty-four under-observation activists of proscribed organisations, including two close relatives of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief, have been taken into ‘protective custody’ as the government launched a massive crackdown against militant outfits, said Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi on Tuesday.

Among those 44 detained were Abdul Rauf and Ham­mad Azhar, brother and son of JeM chief Masood Azhar, respectively, he added.

“This is across the board — we don’t want to give the impression as if we are against any one organisation,” Mr Afridi told reporters at a press conference which he jointly addressed with Interior Secretary retired Major Azam Suleman Khan.

He, however, refused to disclose more names of those detained and also refused to reveal if Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed had been taken into protective custody or not.

Mr Afridi said the decision to detain members of banned outfits was Pakis­tan’s own initiative and had not been taken under foreign pressure. “This is our resolve that we won’t allow the use of our soil against any country,” he said, adding that Pakistan had taken the decision under its proactive approach.

He acknowledged that some people who had been detained — including Abdul Rauf and Hammad Azhar — were named in the dossier on the Pulwama attack handed over to Pakistan by India.

“This does not mean that the action is being taken against only those individuals who are mentioned in the dossier. This is an across-the-board action. The impression should not be taken that we are taking action against one organisation only,” said Mr Khan, adding that the operation would continue.“India has not provided evidence to us [on the Pulwama attack],” said the interior secretary, adding that Pakistan had sought evidence from it. “As long as some evidence does not come on surface, we have taken these people into preventive detention for investigation,” he explained.

“Action will be taken against these persons if we find some evidence against them,” he added. He further said their detention could be suspended if the government did not find proof against them.

The interior secretary said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already said the government was ready to take action whenever India provided evidence.

Mr Khan confirmed that a formal notification to ban JuD and its Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) was yet to be issued — around two weeks after a decision to this effect had been taken by the National Security Commi­ttee headed by the prime minister and comprising besides others the military leadership. “The notification will be issued in the next 24 hours,” he said, attributing the delay to procedures. He also said that if the government had to take over the assets of any banned outfit, it could do so.

The government can take over assets of banned organisations under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. Hours after the press conference, a formal notification to ban JuD and FIF was issued by ministry of interior.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2019