Pakistani authorities have registered a case against unidentified suspects for last month’s Pathankot airbase attack in India, apparently fulfilling a precondition set by New Delhi for resuming the stalled foreign secretary-level talks.
The Punjab counter-terrorism police have registered an FIR in Gujranwala under sections 302, 324 and 109 of Pakistan Penal Code related to murder, attempt to murder, abetment and sections 7 and 21-i of the anti-terrorism act.
On January 2, at least six gunmen allegedly from Pakistan stormed a high-security air force base, killing seven Indian soldiers in an attack that put Pathankot near the Pakistani border on the edge for three days. India has claimed the attack was carried out by the Masood Azhar-led militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The registered FIR, however, neither specifies JeM nor implicates any of its leaders.
Behind the scenes
According to sources in the federal government, before giving the go-ahead to register the case, National Security Adviser (NSA) Nasser Janjua held detailed consultations with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on how to resume the stalled peace talks and visits of foreign secretaries.
India, the sources said, wanted something concrete from Pakistan on Pathankot attack before sending its Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to Pakistan.
The Indian side has also conveyed its apprehensions to Janjua over the weak contents of the FIR and exclusion of JeM and its leadership, according to sources. However, the Pakistani NSA gave surety to Doval the case would progress when the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) find some breakthrough.
Before leaving for Pakistan, the sources said, Jaishankar would now hold a presser to describe the major objectives of his visit including the Pathankot attack and terrorism-related issues apart from the mechanism for the resumption of comprehensive bilateral dialogues.
The case has been registered on the complaint of Interior Ministry’s Deputy Secretary Aitzazuddin.
The complainant stated the Indian NSA had alleged the Pathankot attackers came from Pakistan after planning the attack and probably crossed the border adjacent to the town. Once inside India, they called to some Pakistani phone numbers, including 0301-7775253, 0345-3030479, 0302-4880619 and 0300-0957212.
The plaintiff called for registering the case as the attackers belonged to a proscribed organisation and bringing them to trial in accordance with law.
A Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) spokesperson said a formal inquiry would be launched by a joint investigation team those found involved would be apprehended.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told the media the FIR was registered on the basis of initial evidence provided by India and further action would be taken when more evidence was found.
He said the FIR registration was proof of Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism. He claimed non-state actors would not be allowed to use the Pakistani soil for terrorism in other countries.
The Punjab CTD, the sources said, registered the case in Gujranwala as it does not have a police station in Bahawalpur, where the JeM has its headquarters. They added a few cell numbers mentioned in the FIR were from Sialkot, one of the districts of Gujranwala Division.
Law Minister Sanaullah said that under the anti-terror laws, it was mandatory to probe the case through a JIT.
When asked what would be the status of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the PM to investigate the incident, he said the SIT would work according to its mandate while the JIT would work under the ATA, 1997. “No one will be spared,” he assured the media.
The Pathankot attack took place just a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Lahore to personally wish his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday on December 25.
While the surprise visit broke the ice between the two neighbouring countries, the Pathankot attack has pushed back the relations to square one.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2016.