The attack on Pathankot Airforce base on 2nd January, 2016 will be remembered for the daring on the part of the terrorists in selecting a military base as their target. The ordeal, which lasted well over 17 hours, left 7 security personnel and 1 civilian dead, along with the 6 attackers. While United Jihad Council, a Kashmiri separatist militant group claimed responsibility, security officials suspect it to be the work of Jaish-e-Mohammed. [Also read: Pathankot Attacks: Can Pakistan Solve Its Own Mess?]
Evidence recovered from the crime scenes has been carefully studied and analysed. This includes the various supplies and ammunition that the attackers were carrying, including the labels and other descriptive material on them to prove their origin from the other side of the border. Of special interest is a handwritten note on one of the attackers, dated 25th December (The same day Modi made his surprise visit to Nawaz Sharif’s home town) claiming the attack is revenge for the hanging of terror convict Afzal Guru.
Amongst the evidence submitted to Pakistani authorities are the phone numbers of the handlers of the attackers, called by them just before the attack. Pakistan has rejected this evidence on the basis that those numbers were not registered in Pakistan. Meanwhile, they have raided and sealed some of the offices of Jaish-e-Mohammed along with assurances of co-operation with India by the Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif.
At the same time, a Joint Investigative Team was set up by Pakistan which had visited India and the Air Force base to investigate the attack from their end. Their visit, on 29th March, was welcomed by the government as an affirmative step towards the investigation. Aam Adami Party and Congress protested the visit in Delhi and Pathankot among other places.
Following the visit, Pakistani media now claim the JIT were given no evidence to show the involvement of Pakistani terrorists, nor were they given enough time to gather their own evidence at the crime scene in the Pathankot Air Force base. While no official statement has been given by the authorities, these media reports have left the government fuming. According to a Lahore based media house with sources privy to the JIT, India used the attack as a tool to expand its “vicious propaganda” against Pakistan “without having any solid evidence to back the claim”.
This comes in at the same time an officer of the Indian National Investigative Agency who was also involved in the investigations was killed in a targeted shooting in UP’s Biijnor town. He was accompanied by his wife and two children; while the children are safe, the wife is said to be in a critical condition in AIIMS, Delhi.
The double-speak which Pakistan has involved themselves in, while not surprising is certainly counterproductive to the overall dialogue between the two countries. The minimal co-operation given for other terror attack investigations, continued support to organisations deemed as terror outfits by the international community and the continued misleading of the people of both countries is becoming detrimental to the international standing of Pakistan. The question remains, how long can they continue to afford this?
Ranveer Raj Bhatnagar