UN designated global terrorist Masood Azhar, chief of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), should be arrested by January 18 in connection with a terror financing case, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has asked the Punjab Police, a court official said on Saturday.
The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Gujranwala issued an arrest warrant against Azhar in the terror financing case instituted by the CTD in the previous hearing on Thursday.
"ATC Gujranwala judge Natasha Naseem Supra during the case hearing on Friday directed the CTD to arrest JeM chief Masood Azhar by January 18 and present him in the court. In case of failure (to arrest him), the court may begin proceedings to declare him a proclaimed offender," a court official told PTI on Saturday.
Azhar is facing charges of terror financing and selling jihadi literature.
Following the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019, Pakistan's Punjab police had launched a crackdown on terrorism financing and arrested six terrorists of the JeM in Gujranwala, some 130 kms from Lahore. Azhar is facing the trial in this case.
Following the immense international pressure after the Pulwama attack, the Pakistan government arrested over 100 members of the banned terrorist outfits including the JeM chief's son and brother.
The government also took control of the JeM, Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and Falahai Insaniat Foundation (FIF) properties including seminaries and mosques across the country.
The JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed.
Pakistan's Punjab government claimed to have taken over the administrative control of the JeM headquarters - comprising Madressatul Sabir and Jama-e-Masjid Subhanallah - in Bahawalpur.
In May 2019, the United Nations designated Azhar as a "global terrorist" after China lifted its hold on a proposal to blacklist the Pakistan-based JeM chief, a decade after New Delhi approached the world body for the first time on the issue.
The UN committee listed Azhar on May 1, 2019 as being associated with Al-Qaeda for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of", "supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to", "recruiting for", "otherwise supporting acts or activities of", and "other acts or activities indicating association with" the JeM.
Azhar is a fugitive released by India in exchange of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814 in 1999. After his release, Azhar formed the JeM and scripted many terror attacks in India.
On February 26, 2019, India launched air strikes on JeM's biggest training camp in Pakistan's Balakot.
Paris-based global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is instrumental in pushing Pakistan to take measures against terrorists roaming freely in Pakistan and using its territory to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere.
The FATF placed Pakistan on the Grey List in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to curb money laundering and terror financing by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Reacting to the jail sentence handed out to Mumbai attack mastermind and UN proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and the issuance of an arrest warrant against JeM chief Azhar, India on Friday scoffed at Pakistan, saying it has become a routine for Islamabad to come up with "farcical actions" prior to key international meetings.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the timing clearly suggests the intention of conveying a sense of compliance ahead of APG (Asia-Pacific Group) meet and the next FATF plenary meet in February 2021.
"It has become routine for Pakistan to come up with such farcical actions prior to important meetings.
"UN proscribed entities and designated terrorists act as proxies for Pakistani establishment to fulfil its anti-India agenda. It is for the international community to hold Pakistan to account and ensure that it takes credible action against terror groups, terror infrastructure and individual terrorists," Mr Srivastava added.