Indian authorities on Tuesday dismissed reports from Pakistan that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) didn’t have a solid case linking Jaish-e-Mohammed or its chief Masood Azhar to the January 2 attack on Pathankot airbase.
Officials said India possessed evidence that would withstand scrutiny even in a Pakistani court. Media reports describing the attack as a “drama” following a five-day visit by a Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) pointed to the doublespeak of the Pakistani military establishment, sources in the government said.
“We have evidence that can stand any international judicial scrutiny, including of Pakistan. We told the visiting JIT from Pakistan that Masood Azhar should be arrested in the case,” a senior NIA official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
A source in the government said: “While in India, the JIT took on board detailed evidence which was shared by NIA. Since the JIT collected evidence in accordance with a Pakistani law which applies to Pakistani citizens committing an offence abroad, the involvement of Pakistanis in the Pathankot attack is self-evident.”
A report in Pakistan Today newspaper, citing sources and an unnamed member of the JIT, had said the team had concluded in its report that Indian authorities had prior information about the attackers, and that New Delhi is using the assault to expand its “vicious propaganda” against Islamabad.
Sources described the media report as “a total concoction”, and the NIA official said there is an element in Pakistan which wants to create confusion but India will not fall into such a trap. The official also dismissed the Pakistani JIT’s reported claim that it did not get cooperation from Indian authorities.
“We fully cooperated with the JIT,” the official said. Indian investigators submitted enough evidence to the JIT to prove the charge that the attack originated from Pakistan, the official added.
During the JIT’s five-day visit, the NIA provided its members the names of the attackers and their handlers, the possible location of the handlers, intercepts of calls made by attackers to their handlers in Pakistan, call details of phone numbers used by the attackers, details of Pakistani food packets brought by them and DNA samples taken from the bodies of four attackers to match with their relatives in Pakistan.
The JIT was given access to 16 witnesses, including Punjab Police official Salwinder Singh, who was kidnapped by the attackers.
“We gave enough time to the JIT members in Pathankot airbase. In fact, they told us that they wanted to leave,” the official said.
The NIA also sought from the JIT voice samples of Masood Azhar, his brother Rauf and Kashif Jaan, one of the handlers of the attackers.
Indian investigators offered to show the JIT the bodies of the attackers but the Pakistani sleuths turned it down.
The Pakistan Today report claimed Indian authorities made efforts to hinder the probe by the JIT. The JIT concluded that the standoff between Indian forces and the terrorists ended “within hours of the attack” and this showed the assault was a “drama staged to malign Pakistan and persuade the world community that Pakistan is involved in terrorism”, it cited sources as saying.
Indian authorities also failed to establish the attackers entered from Pakistan, and told the JIT the attackers could have breached the electrified fence on the border because of an “electricity problem”, the report said.