India will not get access to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, a highly-placed source in the Pakistan government said. “The demand is frivolous,” the official said.
On Tuesday, NIA chief Sharad Kumar had said his team would want to visit Bahawalpur in Pakistan where the Jaish-e-Mohammad is headquartered. He had said they would demand access to Azhar, who the NIA believes is the mastermind behind the Pathankot attack.
A five-member Pakistani team is currently in India to gather evidence into the attack. They are likely to submit a report on their return that India hopes will help prosecute Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar.
Pakistani officials, however, said there is no ‘reciprocity’ to the process. “We are determined to investigate the involvement of the Jaish, but instead of playing to the domestic gallery, India should cooperate with us and help us gather evidence and strengthen the case. The trial against Jaish members will be conducted in a Pakistani court of law so where is the need for granting India access to Masood Azhar,” the official said.
India believes it has a strong case against Azhar who it had to release in 1999 in exchange for passengers on board a Nepal-Kandhar Indian Airlines flight that was hijacked. Azhar launched the Jaish after his release.
Sartaj Aziz, who advises Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has admitted that one of the phones shared by India had been tracked to the Jaish-e-Mohammad. Some of the six suicide bombers who laid a siege in Pathankot’s air base had made calls to Pakistan which had been intercepted by India.
Pakistan has detained some of the suspects in connection with the Pathankot attack probe, investigators from the country told their Indian counterparts on Wednesday. “More details about detentions cannot be shared at this moment,” said Sharad Kumar.
But sources said Masood Azhar, chief of JeM, the outfit allegedly behind the attack, or his brother Rauf are not among those detained by the authorities.