15/01/2016 8:02 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar Is In 'Protective Custody', Confirms Pak Minister

** FILE ** Maulana Masood Azhar, the imprisoned leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, or Army of Mohammed, which was outlawed by Pakistan's government and declared terrorist group by the U.S. government, waves from a police van at the High Court in Lahore in this March 22, 2002 file photo. An appeals court in Lahore Saturday, Dec. 14, 2002 ordered the head of one of the country's main Islamic militant groups released from house arrest, adding to a growing list of radicals freed in recent months. (AP Photo/str, File)

Pakistan's Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has confirmed that banned Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar has been taken into "protective custody" along with his accomplices, but clarified he is "not arrested."

"Masood Azhar has been taken into protective custody by the Punjab police counter-terrorism department," Sanaullah told Dawn News.

Earlier, the government chose not to confirm or deny the reports that Azhar has been taken into "protective custody".

"We have taken Maulana Azhar and his fellows under protective custody in connection with the Pathankot incident.

However, we will arrest him if his involvement in the Pathankot attack is proved," Sanaullah said.

He added that operation against banned outfits including JeM would continue under the National Action Programme.

India has identified Azhar as the mastermind of the Pathankot attack on January 2. It has also blamed his brother Rauf and five others for carrying out the attack in which seven Indian soldiers were killed along with all the six terrorists.

India has shared this information along with two Pakistani phone numbers that were made calls to by the terrorists.

According to reports, security agencies have arrested 31 activists of JeM from different parts of the province.

After a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his office issued a statement which said that "several individuals" belonging to JeM have been apprehended in connection with the Pathankot terror attack and some of its offices traced and sealed.

Pakistan has said that the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary-level talks will not take place as scheduled. Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah told a news briefing that both sides were holding consultations to reschedule the talks.

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