Pakistan has registered an FIR against unnamed perpetrators of a militant attack on the Pathankot airbase, paving the way for a visit to India next month by a team to take forward an investigation into the assault.
The FIR, filed against unidentified persons at the counter-terrorism department police station at Gujranwala in Punjab on Thursday, makes no mention of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, blamed by India for the January 2 attack that killed seven security personnel.
It mentions action is being taken on the basis of information provided by the Indian national security adviser but is silent on what the Pakistani probe has uncovered so far.
“The registration of an FIR by Pakistan in connection with the Pathankot probe provides a legal framework under which a team from there can visit India,” said a senior Indian official who did not want to be named.
However, officials on both sides said it was too early to say the FIR would help resume the stalled dialogue or set up a meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers on the margins of a nuclear security summit in Washington next month.
The registration of the FIR coincided with two key meetings in New Delhi – Pakistani envoy Abdul Basit called on foreign secretary S Jaishankar while National Security Adviser Ajit Doval held a meeting with top officials of security agencies and the foreign ministry, at which a decision was made to allow a visit by the Pakistani joint investigation team.
New Delhi was informed about the FIR through diplomatic channels and a copy of the document was shared subsequently, top government sources told Hindustan Times.
The meeting chaired by Doval, which was attended by the foreign and home secretaries and chiefs of the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing and National Investigation Agency, discussed all issues pertaining to Pakistan.
Following the registration of the FIR, Rana Sanaullah, law minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, said a joint investigation team (JIT) will probe the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Sanaullah, a top leader of the ruling PML-N, told the media, “The information provided by India was used to file the case and if need be, Pakistan will ask India for more information.”
He said the JIT will have Pakistani and Indian members and will investigate everyone, including JeM chief Masood Azhar. Sanaullah did not say whether India had been asked to propose members for the JIT or give other details.
The FIR number 06/16 was registered under Sections 302, 324 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code related to murder, attempted murder and abetment of such acts and Sections 7 and 21 of the Anti-Terrorism Act related to the investigation of acts of terrorism.
The complainant is deputy secretary Aitzaz-ud-Din of the federal interior ministry.The FIR stated the Indian NSA had informed Pakistan that four people had attacked Pathankot airbase on January 2.
“It has been further reported by Indian NSA that these attackers had come from Pakistan after planning the attack and had probably crossed border from adjacent to Pathankot general area,” the FIR said. It added the attackers had called five Pakistani mobile numbers from India and they “belonged to a proscribed organisation”.
On January 11, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered the creation of an investigation team comprising officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau to look into the links of the attackers to Pakistan. Officials had then said this team would visit India.
After the Pathankot attack, Pakistan apprehended several suspects and placed JeM chief Masood Azhar in “protective custody”. Media reports have suggested Pakistani investigators have found Indian leads “inadequate” to prove Azhar’s involvement.
Rai Tahir, additional inspector general of the counter-terrorism department and head of the investigation team, has said Pakistan has sought more information from India on the Pathankot attack which it has not received.
Prime Minister Sharif, who has held several meetings with the military leadership along with his National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retired) Nasser Khan Janjua, gave the go-ahead to share the team’s findings with India. Security analyst Talat Masood said the registration of the FIR was “a very welcome move” that shows Pakistan is serious about pursuing the case.
Officials in the Indian home ministry described the FIR as a “small step in the right direction” but said they were not entirely happy as it did not name the JeM or its chief.
(With inputs from Rajesh Ahuja)