NATIONAL

Masood Azhar remanded to custody

ISLAMABAD, DEC. 30. Pakistan authorities today remanded the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Maulana Masood Azhar, to 90 days in custody and shifted him to Mianwali prison in the Punjab province.

Police detained the Maulana last week on the charges of making provocative statements and disturbing the law and order situation. He has already been barred from entering into the North West Frontier Province.

Though Pakistan insists that he was picked up for the violation of domestic laws, observers here are convinced that the detention is part of the campaign by the Musharraf Government to crack down on militant groups in the wake of international pressure and the demand made by India. India has blamed the Jaish for its involvement in the attack on its Parliament. Maulana Azhar was among the three militants released by India two years ago in exchange for the release of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu.

The Foreign Minister, Mr. Abdul Sattar, announced on Saturday that 50 other Jaish activists had also been taken into custody. However, a section of the local media reported that 94 of Maulana Azhar's associates, including four of his brothers, had been arrested. A Pakistani news agency reported that Maulana Azhar was shifted to Mianwali prison in Sargodah.

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