Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim are not in Pakistan, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said today.
Pakistan will not provide protection and refuge to any criminal, including Ibrahim, Malik told reporters on the sidelines of an official function in Lahore.
He said both Ibrahim and Masood Azhar are not in the country.
Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar had told an Indian news channel in December that Azhar had been detained by Pakistani authorities.
Soon after that, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said Azhar was not in the custody of Pakistani authorities. Qureshi had also said that Azhar was at large and wanted by the Pakistan government.
Azhar and two other terrorists were freed by India in exchange for the passengers of an Indian Airlines flight that was hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999.
Azhar formed the Jaish-e-Mohammed soon after his release. In a demarche issued after the Mumbai terror attacks, India had asked Pakistan to hand over Azhar and mob bosses Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim.