External Affairs

Modi Government Plays it Cool after Pak Report Says JIT Will Conclude Pathankot was ‘False Flag’ Op

Official sources in New Delhi dismissed the Pakistan Today report as a “total concoction”. As far as India is concerned, the next step would be when the Pakistan JIT will conclude its investigation and approach the courts in that country.

The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team returning after their investigation in Bamial sector near Pathankot IAF base on Tuesday. Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists had attacked the IAF base recently. Credit: PTI

The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team returning after their investigation in Bamial sector near Pathankot IAF base on Tuesday. Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists had attacked the IAF base recently. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: With the Modi government facing mounting opposition criticism over allowing Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team to visit the Pathankot air base, New Delhi is playing down a report in a Pakistani newspaper that the JIT will conclude the January 2, 2016 terrorist attack was stage-managed by the Indian side to embarrass Islamabad.

On April 4, Pakistan Today published an article quoting ‘anonymous sources’ that the report of the JIT has concluded that India cooked up “another false flag operation fully facilitated by the Indian army just to put the blame on Pakistan”.

The report, the newspaper said, will be finalised and submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the “next few days”.

The Pakistani newspaper  also referred to Sunday’s killing of a National Investigation Agency officer in Uttar Pradesh, saying the “brutal murder of a Muslim investigator is evidence that the Indian establishment wants to keep the matter under wraps”.

After the Pakistan Today report was picked up by the Indian media on Tuesday, there was a barrage of criticism from the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party throughout the day against the Modi-led NDA government.

Official sources in New Delhi dismissed the Pakistan Today report as a “total concoction”, raising questions about the credibility of the media outlet.

“While in India, the JIT  took onboard the detailed evidence which was shared by the NIA. Since the JIT collected evidence in accordance with a Pakistani law which applies to Pakistani citizens committing an offence abroad, the involvement of Pakistanis in the Pathankot attack is self evident,” the sources asserted.

As far as India is concerned, the next step would be when the Pakistan JIT will conclude its investigation and approach the courts in that country. “They could tell the court that they are filing charges based on their investigation or that they don’t have enough,” said an official.

Another channel for India to be informed about developments related to the JIT’s work is the Pakistani national security adviser Naseer Ahmed Janjua. Janjua and the Indian NSA, Ajit Kumar Doval, have remained in regular touch after the Pathankot attack.

The long-postponed foreign secretary-level talks are not likely to happen if India is not convinced that Pakistan will move against Jaish-e-Mohammad and its detained leader, Masood Azhar based on the JIT’s next steps, the sources indicated.

The five-member Pakistan JIT, which included a senior ISI official, arrived on March 27 to probe the Pathankot terror attack. They were given a restricted tour of the sensitive air force base,where six terrorists had held off Indian security agencies for three days and left seven dead. Besides, the JIT team were also given access to 16 witnesses, certified copies of postmortem reports, DNA reports and the seizure memo of articles from the scene of crime.

NIA director-general Sharad Kumar had said on April 1 that “the JIT informed us” they were collecting admissible evidence under clause 188 of Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure, which says:

188. Liability for offences committed outside Pakistan. When a citizen of Pakistan commits an offence at any place without and beyond the limits of Pakistan, or when a servant of the State (whether a citizen of Pakistan or not commits an offence in [a tribal area,] when any person commits an offence on any ship or aircraft registered in Pakistan wherever it may be, he may be dealt with in respect of such offence as if it  had been committed at any place within Pakistan at which he may be found:

Political Agents to certify fitness of inquiry into charge. Provided that notwithstanding anything in any of the preceding sections of this Chapter no charge as to any such offence shall be inquired into in Pakistan unless the Political Agent, if there is one, for the territory in which the offence is alleged to have been committed, certifies that, in his opinion, the charge, ought to be inquired into in Pakistan; and, where there is no Political Agent, the sanction of Federal Government shall be required.

Provided, also that any proceedings taken against any person under this section which would be a bar to subsequent proceedings against such person for the same offence if such offence had been committed in Pakistan shall be a bar to further proceedings against him under the [Extradition Act, 1972,] in respect of the same offence in any territory beyond the limits of Pakistan.

Opposition parties target BJP

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was the first to target Modi based on the Pakistan Today report on Tuesday. “Modiji has done grave injustice to Mother India by calling in ISI. Wonder what was the deal between Modiji and Nawaz,” he tweeted. This was in reply to another tweet which had posted the link to the Pakistan Today article.

He notched things up a pitch with another tweet soon after, saying “The BJP and RSS say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ but have stabbed India in the back by inviting the ISI”.

“Prime Minister Modi must apologise and reply as to what deal was struck when he had gone to wish Nawaz Sharif ‘Happy Birthday’ on December 25,” Kejriwal told reporters off-line too, referring to the PM’s impromptu visit to Lahore last December. “People from the RSS and BJP keep saying ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and then invite ISI to India for probe, People of this country are angry. They will never forgive the Modi government for this act,” he added.

Following in his leader’s footsteps, a Delhi minister, Kapil Mishra went a step further and implicitly accused Prime Minister Modi of being an “ISI agent”.

The BJP hit back at the AAP, with its spokesperson Sambit Patra saying, “This has never happened in the history of India that an elected chief minister calls an elected prime minister an ISI agent,” he said. “When Modi is spreading his message against terrorism in the world, we saw that recently in Saudi Arabia, then for an elected representative to say so is shameful and unfortunate,” he added on Tuesday night.

The Congress did not go as far as the AAP in its rhetroic, but tagged BJP president Amit Shah in their attack on the Modi government.

“BJP president Amit Shah had given a certificate of sincerity to Pakistan. He is the head of the ruling party lacking of any elementary comprehension of the strategic issues involved and the complexity of the relationship between Pakistan and India,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.

Sharma claimed that Modi had been naive in his Pakistan policy. “First it happened post-Ufa when there was an attack in Udhampur, then Gurdaspur, then after his dramatic visit to Lahore and Raiwind to Nawaz Sharif’s residence, in five days, we had the attack in Pathankot. What the prime minister and his government has claimed as a diplomatic triumph has turned out to be a diplomatic disaster,” he added.