| US assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca in Islamabad. (Reuters)
Bahawalpur (Pakistan), Dec. 17 (Reuters): The family of a man wanted in India on charges of terrorism said today that Pakistani authorities had not yet obeyed a court order issued last week which freed him from house arrest.
Maulana Masood Azhar, one of three Muslim militants released by India in 1999 in exchange for the freedom of passengers of a hijacked airliner, has been under house arrest in the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur, 500 km south of Islamabad, since December 2001.
On Saturday, a Pakistani court ordered the release of Masood Azhar, who heads the Jaish-e-Mohammad, a group President Pervez Musharraf has outlawed for fighting an insurgency in Kashmir.
The court order angered India, which said it was proof that Pakistan continued to support terrorism. Masood figures in a list of 20 people the Indian government wants Pakistan to extradite to face charges of terrorism on Indian soil.
Ustad Allah Baksh, the father of Masood Azhar, told Reuters by telephone that police had still not withdrawn from their house despite the court order.
“We are hearing different news about his release. We are expecting to take the court order to the police so that his house arrest ends,” said Baksh, a retired government school teacher.
Local police officials said they had not received any orders from “higher authorities” that the house arrest should end.
Baksh said his son was confined to an upper floor of the house and allowed three weekly meetings with his mother and father in the presence of police. “We want them (police) to let us know what they want to do. They should end this uncertainty”.
A Reuters photographer said more than two dozen police officers were posted around the small house in a middle-class neighbourhood. Access to the street in which the house is located was restricted to residents, their relatives and friends.
Under a Public Safety Act, Azhar’s arrest comes up for review by a special judicial commission every three months.
On Saturday, a three-member review board of the Lahore High Court rejected a request by the provincial government of Punjab to extend Azhar’s detention for another three months, saying there were no grounds to keep him in detention any longer.
Masood was one of three men released from an Indian prison after an Indian airliner was hijacked in late 1999 and flown to Kandahar, where the then-ruling Taliban government helped negotiate a settlement.
The other two men freed were Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, also known as Sheikh Omar, convicted this year for the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and another man named Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar.
The US gave Pakistan $4.5 million worth of radio and communications equipment today to help monitor lengthy borders with Afghanistan and Iran in a drive against terrorism and drug-trafficking.
US assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca praised Pakistan for backing the war on terrorism that the US declared after last year’s September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
“We appreciate it,” Rocca said at a ceremony to hand over the equipment, part of a $73 million programme to enhance Pakistan’s border security.