External Affairs

Next on the Pathankot Probe Agenda, a Visit to Pakistan by the Indian NIA

Members of the Pakistani joint investigation team, formed to probe into the Pathankot airbase attack, at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. The team had gone to Pathankot to visit the site of the attack on Tuesday. Credit: PTI Photo by Kamal Singh

Members of the Pakistani joint investigation team, formed to probe into the Pathankot airbase attack, at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. The team had gone to Pathankot to visit the site of the attack on Tuesday. Credit: PTI Photo by Kamal Singh

New Delhi: Indian investigators will visit Pakistan to take forward the probe into the terror attack on the strategic Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in the aftermath of the Pakistani joint investigation team’s visit to India.

Dates for the visit will be be worked out later, National Investigation Agency director general Sharad Kumar told reporters here at the end of five days of discussions with the Pakistani JIT, which returned today.

“We expressed [the view] that a team of [the] National Investigation Agency could be sent to Pakistan for a probe in that country since the conspiracy has been hatched in that country. They welcomed the idea and the dates will be worked out later,” he said.

Kumar said the NIA presented the JIT with “concrete evidence” against the office bearers of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) who conspired in the attack, and the handlers of the terrorists who facilitated and guided them.

“The NIA also sought voice samples of some senior office bearers of JeM ,” he said, without naming anyone. However, NIA sources said that they had sought voice samples of Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf and Khayyam Babbar, mother of one of killed Jaish terrorists identified as Nasir Hussain, as he had called her before launching the attack in Pathankot.

Kumar also said that it had asked for a DNA sample of the mother of the terrorist.

The NIA briefed the JIT on investigations in the case.

The terror attack executed by the Jaish on January 2, 2016 in Pathankot left seven security personnel dead. Four terrorists were also killed in the gunbattle.

The Pakistan JIT, headed by additional inspector general of police, Counter Terrorism Department, Muhammad Tahir Rai and also including ISI’s Lt Col Tanvir Ahmed, in turn, shared with the NIA the results of investigations carried out by them so far in Pakistan.

“The interaction with the JIT was held in accordance with terms of reference mutually agreed on the basis of reciprocity. The Pakistan JIT assured us of their full cooperation and promised to execute the LR [letter rogatory] which has been received by them,” he said.

The JIT, which arrived here on March 27, interacted on the Pathankot case with NIA officials. Their itinerary included a visit to the IAF base where they were shown the scene of crime as well as the location from where the terrorists sneaked in and hid.

They also visited the spot where Ikagar Singh’s vehicle was snatched, where he was murdered, and the spot from where the terrorists hijacked the SUV of SP Salwinder Singh, Kumar said, adding the route taken by the terrorists was also shown to the JIT.

“These are part of the standard legal procedure of investigation followed in both nations,” he said.

On the JIT’s request, the NIA provided certified copies of postmortem reports, call data records, DNA reports of the four terrorists and the seizure memo of articles from the scene of crime.

The Pakistan JIT was given access to 16 witnesses including Salwinder Singh, his cook, Rajesh Verma and some witnesses as per agreed terms of reference and extant legal provisions.

“The JIT informed us that they were collecting admissible evidence outside Pakistan under the provision of Section 188 of the CrPC of Pakistan, that will legally enable them to be used in prosecution,” he said.

The JIT was also requested to verify the various articles seized from the terrorists including arms and ammunition as mentioned in the Letters Rogatory sent earlier to Pakistan.

The NIA shared with the JIT the identity and the address of the four terrorists and requested that the JIT confirm the same.

K J M Varma  adds from Beijing:

Meanwhile, China today defended its decision to once again block India’s bid at the UN to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad chief and  Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar, saying that it acts on such issues based on facts and rules in an “objective and just manner”.

Asked about China’s reported last minute move putting a technical hold on India’s submission which Indian officials say was armed with strong evidence of the JeM’s terror activities and its role in the Pathankot attack, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said here that China “supports the UN playing a central and coordinating role in international cooperation against terrorism”.

“We always deal with the listing issue (banning militant groups and their leaders) under the UN Security Council committee established under resolution 1267 based on facts and relevant rules of procedures in an objective and just manner,” he said.

“The Chinese side has always been in communication with relevant parties on the listing issue,” he said hinting that China is also in touch with India on the issue.

This is not the first time China has blocked India’s bid to get Pakistan-based militant groups and leaders proscribed by the UN.

The UN had banned the JeM in 2001 but India’s efforts for a ban on Azhar after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack also did not fructify as China, one of the five permanent members of the UN group with veto powers, didn’t allow the ban apparently at the behest of Pakistan again.

Last July, China had similarly halted India’s move in the UN to take action against Pakistan for its release of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, saying that its stand was “based on facts and in the spirit of objectiveness and fairness” with Beijing again claiming at the time that it was in touch with New Delhi.

Stating that China is opposed to all forms of terrorism, Hong said “China has also taken active part in international counter terrorism corporation”.

To another question about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington yesterday that the world community should “drop the notion that terrorism is someone else’s problem and that ‘his’ terrorist is not ‘my’ terrorist,” Hong said “China opposes double standards on the issue of terrorism”.

“We believe that all parties should enhance communication in a bid to forge counter-terrorism synergy to work together with entire international community including India to jointly fight against the threat of terrorism and safeguard peace and stability of the region and beyond,” he said.