A top counterterrorism official will lead a special team from Islamabad to Punjab’s Pathankot airbase on March 29 to investigate a deadly attack in January for which India blames the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group.
The six-member team that will arrive in India on Sunday for a four-day visit will also question in the NIA’s presence a police officer and two others who were allegedly abducted and later released by the attackers.
The siege at the military facility derailed proposed talks between the foreign secretaries, with India making it clear that the possibility of dialogue hinged on Islamabad clamping down on those behind the attack.
Additional inspector general Tahir Rai of Pakistan’s counterterrorism department, who will lead the visitors, is the counterpart of the National Investigation Agency’s inspector general Sanjiv Singh.
Government sources told Hindustan Times that the Pakistani special investigating team (SIT) will be allowed into the military facility after being flown to Amritsar from Delhi in a BSF aircraft and then dropped by a helicopter outside the air force station.
They will enter the compound on vehicles and will be allowed to inspect the spot where the fighting took place, more than a kilometre away from the airbase’s technical area.
Pakistan authorities registered an FIR on February 18 over the attack on the basis of information provided by India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval to his counterpart, Naseer Khan Janjua, the same day.
The Pakistani team will not meet Doval as the NSA will be out of the country.
The decision to allow the SIT into the airbase was taken at a high-level meeting in the prime minister’s office (PMO) on March 19.
The discrepancy between the FIR, which mentions four attackers, and home minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Parliament last week that there were six, will be addressed by showing the visitors the four bodies recovered and investigations on the remaining two militants based on a forensic report.
Officials say the Indian probe has dug out the identities of the four attackers along with their two JeM facilitators in Pakistan. The addresses of the four men are known, so are the antecedents of the attack’s planners and their phone numbers.
While the Indian side is willing to share all details of its investigation with Pakistan, the SIT too is expected to share information from Pakistan’s probe as well as action taken against the JeM.