Pakistan has done it again! Islamabad has brazenly defended Jaish-e-Mohammed Masood Azhar saying that India must provide ‘solid evidence’ against him. In an interview to CNN, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that, “Masood Azhar is in Pakistan, he is very unwell, he's unwell to the extent that he can't leave house because he is really unwell. That's the information I have. If they have evidence share with us so that we can convince the people and the judiciary.”
The statement comes amid heightened tension between the two nuclear powers following the dastardly attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Hours within the February 14 attack, Jaish had claimed responsibility for the blast. 12 days later, India destroyed a major terror camp belonging to Jaish deep in Pakistan’s Balakot. Despite India providing numerous evidences against him, Islamabad has always maintained that Azhar is heading a seminary and it has no proof that he is involved in any terror activities.
The statement comes on a day when Qureshi is likely to meet his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of OIC meet in Abu Dhabi.
Meanwhile, the United States, Britain and France have proposed that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) blacklist Masood Azhar. They have asked the 15-member Security Council sanctions committee to subject Azhar to an arms embargo, global travel ban and asset freeze. However, the move is likely to be opposed by China, which previously prevented the Security Council’s Islamic State and al Qaeda sanctions committee from sanctioning JeM leader Masood Azhar in 2016 and 2017, as reported by Reuters. China’s UN mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new proposal.
The Security Council condemned the February 14 attack in a statement last week, which was agreed after several days of negotiation. Diplomats said China had been opposed to a reference of JeM, however, the agreed statement did eventually note that JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack.