Pakistan Pushes Afghanistan to Hunt Down Militant Leader

Authorities in Pakistan said they have offered the Taliban “intelligence and operational assistance” to hunt down the leader of a Pakistani militant group who is believed to be in Afghanistan.

Masood Azhar, the head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed organization, was designated a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council in 2019.

The issue of Azhar’s presence in Afghanistan has been raised formally on “multiple occasions” with Taliban intermediaries, who have been presented with evidence of his presence and told that he’s wanted in terrorism cases in Pakistan, said a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, according to a briefing transcript.

“Pakistan, as well as the international community, have sufficient reasons to be concerned that there still remain pockets of ungoverned spaces within Afghanistan that are being used by terrorist groups as safe havens,” he said.

He added that the Taliban are expected to deliver on their assurances that they wouldn’t allow terrorists to operate against any country from Afghan soil.

Azhar became a factor in tensions between Pakistan and India after Jaish-e-Mohammed took responsibility for a 2019 car bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary troops. That touched off a clash between the two nuclear powers.

The US and India had long accused Pakistan of harboring and supporting militants involved in cross-border attacks in India and Afghanistan. Islamabad continually denied those accusations, while China — Pakistan’s long-time ally — had blocked attempts to list Azhar as a terrorist.