Pakistan's army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor
Pakistan's army spokesman Major General Asif GhafoorAAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

It looks like the Pakistan Army and the country's foreign minister aren't on the same page, at least when it comes to terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pak army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor on Wednesday, March 6, said that the JeM does not exist in the country, days after foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said that JeM chief Masood Azhar was in the country, but was "really unwell."

Ghafoor, speaking to CNN on the February 14 Pulwama attack for which the JeM had claimed responsibility, said: "First of all, that (JeM's) claim has not been made from within Pakistan because JeM does not exist in Pakistan as it has been proscribed by the UN and Pakistan also."

He also spoke of the recent crackdown on terror, during which Pak authorities detained 44 members of banned organisations, including the son and brother of Azhar, and said that the nation was not acting under pressure. The spokesperson explained that the detentions were a part of the nation's policy when it comes to terror organisations.

"We are not doing anything under anyone's pressure," he said, and added that Islamabad would flush out "anybody who operates from Pakistan ... we feel that it is not in the interest of Pakistan."

Ghafoor's claims are in stark contrast to Qureshi's statement, in which he clearly said that Azhar was indeed in Pakistan and was facing serious health issues. "He [Azhar] is in Pakistan, according to my information," Qureshi said in an interview with CNN. "He is very unwell, unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house."

In another interview with the BBC, the Pak foreign minister said that they were not sure if the JeM was behind the February 14 Pulwama attack. "We are not sure of that," he said. "You are not sure Jaish-e-Mohammed is not based in Pakistan? They have claimed responsibility for the attack," the interviewer asked, to which Qureshi replied, "They have not... There is confusion on that. The confusion is (that) the leadership (of JeM) when contacted, said no."

While he sounded very cautious while speaking to CNN, the BBC interview caught him off guard when he asked, "Contacted by who?" Qureshi was then seen fumbling and trying to cover up saying: " people over here...they say...they denied...they denied that...That's the confusion. The people...the people who are known to them. They...they claim no responsibility."

The terror group itself released an audio on Wednesday, lashing out at the Pakistani authorities over the detentions. Azhar, in the audio, also said that he was alive. "Stop persecuting the mosques, madrassas and mujahideen. Remember, that when a Muslim flees the battle against the hypocrites, the wrath of Allah is upon him," the Times of India quoted him as saying in the audio.

"There are reports the world over of my death. But, without doubt, God alone decides how long we are to live. Today is 4th March, 2019. The day has passed, Tuesday night is upon us and I have no way of knowing whether I will be alive when you hear my words," he added.

Parvez Musharraf says ISI supporting JeM

Pervez Musharraf
Pervez MusharrafReuters

While the Pak authorities may claim that the nation is ready to take action against terror groups, former Pak president General Pervez Musharraf has hinted that it is the Pakistan intelligence agency ISI that supports terrorists. Speaking to Pakistan-based journalist Nadeem Malik, Musharraf said that the government had taken the right step by detaining Azhar's brother Mufti Abdur Rauf, and son Hammad Azhar, something that should have been done long back.

"They did the right thing. I have been telling them that it (JeM) is a terrorist organisation. They only had carried out a suicide attack on me. This is a terrorist organisation and action should be taken against them. I am happy the government is taking a tough stand against them."

When asked why Musharraf did not take any action against the terror organisations, including the JeM, during his tenure, the former president hinted that the terror group had the full support of the ISI and "no major action was taken against them (JeM)."

Musharraf had made these claims in 2016 as well during a conversation with India Today. "Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) trains Jaish-e-Mohammad(JeM) and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) terrorists," Musharraf had said adding: "Masood Azhar is a terrorist."