Pathankot attack: Pakistan team to visit in ‘next few days’, says minister
Pakistan has received the go-ahead from India to send a team to investigate the attack on Pathankot airbase after some headway was made in the case, including the registration of an FIR, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said.
“Our SIT (special investigation team) will visit India in the next few days. India has already been informed through a letter by the ministry of foreign affairs about the SIT’s visit. India has agreed to it,” he told reporters on Sunday evening.
The only request from the Indian side was that Pakistan should give notice five days before the team’s visit, Khan said.
On Friday, Pakistani authorities registered a First Information Report against unidentified attackers and abettors for the January 2 terrorist assault on Pathankot airbase that killed seven people. This paved the way for the Pakistani team’s visit, officials from both sides said.
After India blamed the Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack, Pakistani authorities detained some operatives of the banned group and raided several of its seminaries.
Khan defended the FIR, saying it was a legal formality that had to be completed. He said the FIR was needed to acquire data from mobile phone service providers for numbers that were allegedly called by the attackers from India.
“These (phone) numbers have been made part of the FIR,” he said.
“The first step is that we take the record of these numbers from the service providers. This information should be handed over to the investigation team. Secondly, the few names that have been informally given to us from the (Indian) side, what is the connection between these names and the phone numbers? This will be examined.”
Khan evaded queries on whether the Pakistani team will be allowed to visit Pathankot airbase.
In a related development, The Express Tribune newspaper reported that the national security advisers of Pakistan and India had agreed that the SIT should visit India in March, before a meeting between the foreign secretaries.
Pakistan’s NSA Nasser Janjua and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval had “almost finalised” the schedule for the SIT’s visit, the daily quoted an unnamed official as saying.
India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar will then visit Islamabad to discuss the mechanism for the comprehensive dialogue.
Doval’s office had directed the external affairs ministry to make arrangements for the SIT’s visit, sources said.
The report said the US had played a role in the registration of the FIR because it wanted the nascent India-Pakistan dialogue to go ahead. While finalising a deal for eight new F-16 jets for Pakistan, the US is believed to have urged Pakistani authorities to take some concrete steps on the Pathankot attack.