In an exclusive telephonic interview with CNN-News18, Taliban spokesperson and face of Taliban Suhail Shaheen denied the presence of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar in Afghanistan, warning Pakistan “not to make claims without evidence”.
Pakistan, in a move that is being called “hogwash" by India, has written a letter to Afghanistan to arrest. Azhar, a UN-designated terrorist, is India’s most wanted.
“We have a commitment not to allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any other country,” Shaheen said. “We warn Pakistan not to raise any claims without any evidence as it has a negative impact on bilateral relations. Claims without any evidence don’t serve any purpose…We don’t have any evidence of Azhar’s presence.”
“We will definitely look for him. We will look him for our satisfaction, but he is not here. I clearly deny and say Afghanistan is not the place to be used against any other country,” he said.
Masood Azhar was freed from an Indian jail on December 31, 1999, after the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 814. He was designated a global terrorist after the Pulwama attack in February 2019.
Top sources told CNN-News18 that the Pakistan foreign office in its letter to the Taliban has claimed that Azhar is possibly hiding in Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. “He could be in Nangarhar and Kunar areas, so he should be found, arrested, and informed," the letter says, as per the sources.
Indian government officials told CNN-News18 that this could be Pakistan’s attempt to comply with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) mandate and get off the intergovernmental organisation’s grey list.
Sources say this is the second time that a letter has been written to Afghanistan. The first was in January this year when Pakistan took up the issue with Afghanistan at a ministerial level. The second letter was just ahead of FATF’s on-site visit to Pakistan that happened from August 28 to September 3.
Pakistan is hoping to be taken off the grey list at the October plenary of FATF. But it has to comply with a 34-point task list. The FATF team has been briefed by Pakistan authorities that Azhar is not in Pakistan as he fled to Afghanistan a long time ago, said sources.
Sajid Mir, wanted in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case, was declared dead by Pakistan until last year. Ahead of the FATF deciding on Pakistan’s fate, Sajid was suddenly found, arrested, and convicted for terrorist activities.
India believes the current finger-pointing at Afghanistan is a replay of the same script.
Indian intelligence agencies believe Azhar is living in an ISI safehouse in Bahawalpur. His frequent visits to a Rawalpindi hospital have also been documented and cited by India.