The Pathankot attack figured in a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his top aides on Thursday but the issue was overshadowed by the Saudi Arabian foreign minister’s visit to seek Pakistan’s support in the ongoing diplomatic row with Iran.
National security adviser Nasser Janjua briefed the meeting about evidence and leads provided by India regarding the attack on Pathankot airbase and his conversations with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval, sources in Islamabad said.
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the gathering about the status of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, blamed by Indian security agencies for the Pathankot attack, and its leaders, sources said. The JeM was banned by Pakistan in 2002 but it continues to be active in Punjab province and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The Pathankot incident was not the main item on the agenda of the meeting also attended by foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz, foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and Intelligence Bureau chief Aftab Sultan. Sources said the visit by Saudi foreign minister Adel Bin Ahmed al-Jubeir and the row between Saudi Arabia and Iran dominated discussions.
A statement issued after the meeting merely said the leaders had discussed “national and regional security” issues without giving details.
India’s demand for action against the JeM had also figured at a meeting of corps commanders chaired by Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Wednesday, sources said.
India has linked planned talks between the foreign secretaries on January 15 to “prompt and decisive action” against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack.
Despite the pressure from New Delhi, Islamabad has been focussed on the Saudi leadership’s demand for a public commitment regarding Pakistan’s support in the ongoing row with Iran. Pakistan is so wary about making such a commitment that a news conference between Sartaj Aziz and al-Jubeir was cancelled.
Pakistan, which has a sizeable Shia population and close ties with Iran, is chary of throwing in its lot with Saudi Arabia.
Al-Jubeir, who met army chief Sharif, also discussed Pakistan’s involvement in the coalition force of Islamic countries to counter the threat from the Islamic State.
He was originally supposed to visit last Sunday but delayed his trip because of the sudden escalation in tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran following the execution of a prominent Shia cleric by the kingdom.
Analysts said Pakistan is in a difficult position as the Saudi government has been a strong financial supporter. In 2014, the Saudis helped Pakistan avoid a balance of payments crisis.