Holding good on its promise to act against anyone involved, Pakistan started on Wednesday a crackdown on a proscribed Kashmir-related jihadist outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), accused by India of having masterminded the attack on its Pathankot airbase. The Prime Minister’s office issued a statement saying “based on initial investigations in Pakistan and the information provided [by India] several individuals belonging to JeM have been apprehended, the offices of the organisation are also being traced and sealed. Further investigations are underway.”
Among those apprehended are JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother. The man, it may be recalled, went to India in the ’90s to fight alongside Kashmiri mujahedeen where he was arrested in ’94, to be sprung out of prison five years later by Harkatul Mujahedeen militants who hijacked an Indian plane forcing it to land in Kabul and exchanged him and two others with passengers and the plane crew.
The Pathankot attack took place just days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise stopover in Pakistan during which time the two sides iterated their resolve to take the peace process forward. Whosoever is behind the attack had meant to sabotage the resumption of the stalled peace talks. Notably, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in its statement condemning the incident also expressed the concern that it came at time when Pakistan and India were set to resume talks after a long pause.
Needless to say, no non-state actor can be allowed to dictate the country’s foreign policy. It is in Pakistan’s own interest to get to the bottom of the issue and hold the perpetrators to account. A particularly important aspect of Wednesday’s action against JeM is that the same day Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over a national security meeting, which was attended, among others, by the Chief of the Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif. Contrary to accusatory fingers pointed by some in India at Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency arguing that Pakistan’s military is against normalisation, the decisions of the meeting show the civil and military leadership are on the same page regarding the policy towards India.
The ball is now in New Delhi’s court. The action against JeM has been taken on the basis of what is described as “creditable leads” provided by Indian National Security Adviser Chief Ajit Doval to his Pakistani counterpart, Lieutenant General Nasser Khan Janjua (Retd). ‘Leads’ alone of course are not enough for prosecution purposes. India has been asked to provide evidence of the suspects’ alleged involvement in the attack which can stand scrutiny in a court of law.
As per an official statement, the national security meeting also decided that “in order to carry the process forward, additional information would be required, for which the government of Pakistan is considering sending a special investigation team to Pathankot, in consultation with the government of India.” Soon afterwards, the Prime Minister formed a joint investigation team, comprising senior officials from the counter-terrorism department, intelligence and investigation agencies, to investigate Indian claims. Apparently, the same team would be visiting Pathankot provided India gives the green signal. In the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries, if any Pakistani citizen is to be tried for a role in the terror attack, that has to happen in this country with the help of solid evidence obtained through a joint investigation. Hopefully, Indian co-operation will be forthcoming.
Source: Business Recorder