A Pakistan joint investigation team (JIT) which visited India to gather evidence on the Pathankot airbase attack is “not convinced that its soil was used to plan the strike”, a senior aide of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told HT.
“Anybody can call the Jaish-e-Mohammad numbers from India,” the aide said, dismissing India’s assertion that terrorists who attacked the air base in January called up several persons including Jaish leaders based in Pakistan.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been on a downswing since the audacious attack on January 2 and the assertions from Islamabad are likely to further increase tensions between the neighbours.
All four terrorists who attacked the strategic defence installation were killed besides seven Indian security personnel.
India has shared what it believes is concrete evidence of Jaish’s involvement including the phone numbers to which calls were made.
India says one of the terrorists, identified as Nasir, had called his mother from Pathankot and told her that he was on a suicide mission. This evidence too has been dismissed by the JIT.
“The conversation does not prove that he went from here,’’ the aide said. “The National Investigation Agency could not tell us the exact location from where the terrorists had crossed over from Pakistan into India.”
Pakistan is likely to seek more information from India but it is clear that the security establishment is protecting the Jaish, an organisation that it views as its strategic asset.
Sharif had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after the attack and promised cooperation but the Pathankot probe is proceeding on the same lines as the 26/11 investigation. After the Mumbai attacks in 2008, Pakistan arrested Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the military commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba who was subsequently freed on bail.
The Jaish and Lashkar allegedly have deep connections in the Pakistani Army and ISI and are considered their proxies.
India has also provided DNA samples of the four terrorists killed during the Pathankot siege and believes it has a strong case against the Jaish but signals from Islamabad are not positive.
The NIA has also put in a request that it be allowed to send a team to Pakistan but the aide said it was ‘’very unlikely.”