Pak team says no evidence yet against Masood Azhar


NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s Joint Investigating Team (JIT) investigating the Pathankot airbase attack in India has told Indian interlocutors that it is yet to find evidence to link Maulana Masood Azhar to the terror outrage, The Hindu reported on Wednesday.

The Indian Express said that Indian investigators had asked the JIT for the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief’s voice samples, indicating he was the prime suspect in the January 2 armed attack at the Indian Air Force base.

According to The Hindu, the JIT was still verifying whether the JeM founder — who was released from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for passengers of the hijacked IC 814 aircraft — had any role in the storming of the base. The paper quoted an unnamed senior security establishment official for the claim.

India has in the past said Azhar and his brother Abdul Asghar Rauf were directly linked to the attack, which was planned at the JeM’s Bahawalpur headquarters.

“We posed pin-pointed questions about Masood Azhar; they neither confirmed nor denied that he was in detention. The JIT told us that though they have made a few detentions in the case, so far no direct evidence has surfaced against Masood Azhar,” the official said.

Opposition parties have slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for inviting the JIT.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh seemed defensive while addressing an election rally in Assam, saying Pakistan had acknowledged the Pathankot attack and filed an FIR.

“Pakistan had been continuously saying that it has no involvement in militant and terror activities in India. But now it has acknowledged the Pathankot attack and filed an FIR. Their [probe] team has come here and our team is going to Pakistan,” he said.

On Wednesday, the NIA handed over to the JIT a list running into 34 pages. The list pertains to the evidence required by India to build a foolproof case against the JeM.

The JIT is learnt to have informed the NIA of the progress made in an independent investigation being done by them.

Pakistan has asked for a series of documents and evidence from India. “The call detail records of the former Gurdaspur SP, Salwinder Singh, his cook Madan Gopal and friend Rajesh Verma have been sought by the JIT. The terrorists had made calls to their handlers in Pakistan through these phones only after they snatched it from its owners. They also sought the post-mortem reports and other details,” the official said.

On Thursday, Singh, Gopal and Verma, along with the doctors who conducted autopsies on the four terrorists (whose bodies were found at the airbase) will interact with the JIT as “witnesses” to assist in their investigations.

“We have asked for the voice samples of Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf, as also those of Khayyam Baber (mother of terrorist Nasir killed during the Pathankot attack),” NIA chief Sharad Kumar said after the meeting.

Nasir was said to have spoken to his mother during the attack, The Hindu said.

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