A reciprocal visit of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing the Pathankot airbase attack, to Islamabad is on cards after the Pakistani investigators complete their four-day visit to India from March 27 onwards.
India is allowing the Pakistani investigators access to the Pathankot airbase , excluding the technical area where country’s air assets are stationed, sources said.
“Pakistan’s joint investigation team will reach New Delhi on the evening of March 27 and from next day onwards it will visit the airbase and other places which it may deem necessary for its probe. After the completion of Pak team’s visit, the NIA may visit Islamabad for a possible reciprocal visit,” said a senior home ministry official requesting anonymity.
Sources said the NIA may seek access to Bahawalpur, where terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) is headquartered.
The NIA probe has found that the Pathankot attackers were associated with JeM.
“The NIA may like to question Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of JeM, his brother Rauf, who allegedly put a statement on internet on Pathankot attack and the border areas in Pakistan, from where the federal anti-terror agency suspects attackers crossed over to India,” said a central counter terror official involved in the probe.
Sources said government has deliberated upon a reciprocal visit of NIA to Islamabad but final decision will be taken after the Pak team goes back.
Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told HT that the Pakistani team will be provided access to all places including the Pathankot airbase that was targeted by six attackers on January 2.
When asked whether the Pak team will be allowed to visit Bamiyal village on Indo-Pak border in Pathankot’s neighbouring Gurdaspur district in Punjab, which the NIA probe has found to be the place from where alleged Pakistani attackers entered India, Rijiju said: “We will allow them to visit wherever necessary for the investigation.”
Earlier, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had hinted that the airbase was out of bounds for the Pak investigators. Aides of Union home minister Rajnath Singh had also indicated that the minister was not in favour of Pak probe team’s visit to the airbase. But an indication on change in government’s thinking came when Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said the air force had no objection to Pak team’s visit to the airbase, also adding that any permission in this regard will be a political decision.
Rijiju also denied any visa has already been granted by the home ministry the Pakistani investigators, saying the composition of team has not been communicated by the neighbouring country.