Pathankot Airbase attack: Pak JIT to arrive in Delhi today

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NEW DELHI: Five Pakistani intelligence and police officials will arrive in India on Sunday morning, as part of that country’s ongoing investigation into January’s attack on the Air Force base in Pathankot, government sources have told The Indian Express. The Indian government has permitted the team to visit the Air Force base at Pathankot, and to meet with officials at the National Investigations Agency.

Lieutenant-Colonel Tanvir Ahmad, a member of the team who is serving with the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, will become the first officer in the Pakistani covert service to visit an Indian military facility with official permission, the sources said. New Delhi has long blamed the ISI for aiding jihadists to stage terrorist attacks against India.

The Pakistani team, set up in the wake of the Pathankot attack in an effort to salvage the India-Pakistan dialogue process, includes three intelligence officials. Led by Punjab counter-terrorism department Additional Inspector-General Muhammad Tahir Rai, its members include Deputy Director-General, Lahore, of Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau and military intelligence officer Lieutenant-Colonel Irfan Mirza.

Inspector Shahid Tanveer, a Punjab police officer based in Gujjranwala who is the fifth member of the team, has formal charge of the investigation Pakistan is conducting in the case under its sweeping Anti-Terrorism Act.

New Delhi-based government sources said the team, which will fly in on a special jet, would meet with senior NIA officials on Monday for a briefing on the status of the investigation. The team will then be flown to the Pathankot Air Force base on Tuesday.

“The most important meetings from India’s point of view will be on Wednesday, when it has been agreed that we will be able to ask questions on the status of the investigation in Pakistan”, a government official said.

NIA investigators are expected to seek details on arrests in Pakistan, and the action it has taken on the basis of intercepted telephone call records handed over by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to his Pakistani counterpart, Lieutenant-General Nasir Janjua.

“There’s very little we need to actually know from Pakistan”, an official said. “We are armed with the actual identities of the perpetrators, their connections to the handlers, and a mass of evidence which shows precisely when they crossed into India across the border at Bamiyal, in Punjab”. “What we would like to know”, he said, “is what they are planning to do”.

Islamabad is yet to formally notify India on the status of its investigations into the case, though Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, has said police there have traced calls made by the slain perpetrators to the Jaish-e-Muhammad’s headquarters in Pakistan.

Aziz also said the Jaish chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, is being held in what he called “protective custody”—a term normally used when police hold a person to prevent an imminent threat to her or his life.

Though New Delhi has arranged to Pakistani investigators to interview all witnesses in the case, including seventeen individuals injured in the course of the attack, the legal status of the case remains unclear.

India has yet to receive a response to a Letters-Rogatory—a formal request from a court to a foreign court for judicial assistance, in this case to conduct investigations and examine witnesses—it sent last month seeking evidence for the NIA’s Pathankot investigation.

For its part, Islamabad has sent no Letters-Rogatory to India, which means any legal documents or evidentiary material its investigators may access will have no evidentiary value.

“This isn’t a formal investigative trip”, a senior official said. “I think you can think of it as a kind of goodwill trip, which we can only hope will lead to a substantive legal process against the perpetrators at some future state. The thing is, we do not want Pakistan to have any excuses for not acting against the perpetrators.”

 

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