A total of 35 operatives of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), including its founder Masood Azhar, have been detained by Pakistani authorities but there has been no other progress in the investigation into the Pathankot attack, sources said on Tuesday.
Police officials said that apart from raids conducted last week on seminaries in Punjab, no more action has been taken by authorities to extend their sweep to other provinces where the JeM is active. Officials also said they were told not to go after JeM seminaries in Sindh and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
No charge-sheet has been framed so far and those who have been detained will have to be released within 60 days if prosecutors do not come up with evidence against the JeM operatives, sources said.
The Inter-Services Intelligence agency appears to have taken a step back after initially handling the detentions . This is being seen by some as a clear indicator that the detained people will be released soon.
The JeM operatives were held by counter-terrorism police and intelligence agencies following Islamabad’s commitment to nab perpetrators of the attack on the Indian airbase.
There is also confusion over who has custody of Azhar and whether he has actually been arrested. India has accused Azhar of masterminding the Pathankot attack, which resulted in the death of seven Indian security personnel before the six attackers were killed.
Rana Sanauallah, the law minister of Punjab province and a top leader of the PML-N, has only said that Azhar is in “protective custody”.
Though Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered to send a special investigation team to Pathankot to gather evidence – a move welcomed by New Delhi – it is now becoming increasingly clear that the Pakistani side has slowed down its action against the JeM.
This became evident after January 14, when the two sides announced that a planned meeting between the foreign secretaries would be postponed.
Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s remarks this week about not allowing Pakistani investigators into the Pathankot airbase was seen as the last straw by the Pakistani side.
“We extended a hand of cooperation but India did not reciprocate,” said a foreign office official who asked not to be named.
During a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif before their visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran, the civil and military establishment reportedly decided to adopt a “wait and watch” approach.
“The JeM is emerging as the new Jamaat-ud-Dawah,” journalist Amir Ahmad said during a TV talk show on Wednesday. Ahmad said that like the JuD, the JeM operates freely in parts of Pakistan. “And like the leaders of the JuD, we will see the leaders of the JeM being freed by courts as the Sharif government struggles to find evidence,” he added.
The larger picture, observers said, reflects the tussle between the military and the civilian government. Sources close to Prime Minister Sharif said he is upset over the manner in which the army supported the JeM’s operations.
“Its déjà vu for him. Musharraf did the same thing in Kargil,” said analyst Hamid Mir. He quoted sources in the Prime Minister’s house as saying that the Pathankot incident has been a source of embarrassment for Sharif but he has decided not to react in the manner he did with former dictator Pervez Musharraf after the Kargil conflict in 1999.