Azhar's close association with Osama bin Laden Photograph:( Reuters )
'This is the madrassah (seminary) and India is doing propaganda that it is the JeM headquarters,' Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said. He had earlier said Pakistan's Punjab government had 'taken over the control of the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur'.
Making a complete U-turn, the Pakistan government on Saturday dismissed its claim of having taken control of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) headquarters in Bahawalpur. It instead said the complex has no link with the terror outfit, which had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir.
In a video message on social media, Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the Punjab government took administrative control of Madrassatul Sabir and Jamia-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur in line with the decisions taken during the National Security Council meeting held on Thursday and as part of the National Action Plan.
Rejecting his earlier announcement that the complex was JeM headquarters, Chaudhry said, "This is the madrassah (seminary) and India is doing propaganda that it is the JeM headquarters."
On Friday, the minister had told PTI that the Punjab government has "taken over the control of the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur", about 400 km from Lahore.
"The government of Punjab has taken over the control of a campus comprising Madressatul Sabir and Jama-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur, allegedly the headquarters of Jaish-e-Mohammad, and appointed an administrator to manage its affairs," he said.
This was the first time in years that the campus, about 430 km from Lahore, had been acknowledged by Pakistan to be the headquarters of the terror outfit JeM led by Masood Azhar.
A statement issued by the Interior Ministry on Friday also said the crackdown on Jaish "has been taken in line with the decision of the National Security Committee meeting held on Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan".
The Islamic seminaries in the campus has a faculty of 70 teachers and currently, 600 students were studying in it, the statement said, adding that Punjab police is providing security and protection to the campus.
Meanwhile, The Pakistani government on Saturday took a group of local journalists to the campus in Bahawalpur and claimed that it is a "routine seminary having no link with JeM".
Bahawalpur Deputy Commissioner Shahzaib Saeed accompanied a group of journalists to the campus showing "business as usual" there.
The commissioner denied association of the seminary and the mosque with Masood Azhar.
"Some 600 students are studying here and none of them is associated with any banned organisation or involved in any terror activity," he said.
A local journalist, who visited the seminary and spoke to some students and teachers there, said, "When asked about the JeM and Masood Azhar, they showed complete ignorance about them. Perhaps they were briefed before our visit."