Posts Tagged ‘Pathankhot terror attack’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published by NDTV on April 6, 2016. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from NDTV’s  website without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Pathankot air base

I concluded my last piece, which I wrote for NDTV almost two months ago, by stating that India-Pak relations were returning to razor’s edge. That is exactly where we are now in the aftermath of the terror assault at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot. After a visit to India, the five-member Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which was formed to assist India, is set to present its report to  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had formed the JIT after taking Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in confidence. Needless to say, Mr Modi faced flak from the opposition after his government allowed the Pakistani team of investigators to visit the air force base.

On April 4, some sections of the Pakistani media reported that the JIT will claim that the Indian forces had killed the terrorists “within hours” but turned it into a “three-day drama” to get international attention. Pakistan Today, not a prominent Pakistani newspaper, cited JIT sources as saying that the Indian authorities had “staged” the attack to “malign Pakistan” and persuade the world community that Pakistan is involved in terrorism.

Protest DemoAs expected, the report caught the attention of the Indian media. The demonstrations against the visit by the Pakistani investigators held by the activists of Indian National Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) outside the Pathankot airbase, are a stark reminder of the fact that the bilateral ties between the two countries are layered with emotions, ego and chronic bitterness even as there is an attempt at unprecedented cooperation on a terror investigation.

Whilst I don’t think that the JIT report will go to the extent of blaming India for staging the Pathankot attack, it is likely to deem the evidence given by the Indian authorities as insufficient and inadequate. According to sources privy to the details of the JIT report, the investigators have claimed that the Indian authorities failed to provide sufficient evidence of the involvement of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar. The report adds that to instigate criminal proceedings, Pakistani authorities need to have sufficient evidence and credible witnesses against the Masood Azhar.

Pakistani JIT Pathankot Air BaseAccording to the source, the JIT’s report says Indian authorities did not cooperate well with  the Pakistani JIT, offered just limited access to desired places, and evidence offered does not allow the four attackers to be established as linked to either the Jaish or its leader Masood Azhar. Pakistan will seek further cooperation and more information from the Indian authorities on the Pathankot attack to take further action on the FIR registered against the alleged attackers of the Pathankot airbase in India and their abettors. The fate of the FIR numbered 06/2016 seems bleak at the moment. In case India does not provide further evidence, the FIR is likely to be dismissed by Pakistani authorities in the light of the recommendations set forth in the JIT report.

The relations between Pakistan and India, amid all the hoopla surrounding the meetings between the Prime Ministers of both countries, which were heading in the right direction before the Pathankot incident, are back to Square One. An expected meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington could not take place since PM Sharif cancelled his trip after a huge terror attack at a playground in Lahore.

With such a gloomy state of affairs in bilateral ties, where do the two countries go from here? The answer does not sound promising at the moment.

Source: Pak’s Pathankot Report Will Cite Insufficient Access, Evidence

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published by NDTV on January 15, 2016. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from NDTV’s  website without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Pathankot Air Base

 

In a dramatic turn of events after the Pathankot airbase attack, the Pakistani government claims to have arrested members of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad. Following a high-level meeting of top military and civil leadership yesterday, the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that, acting on “actionable intelligence” provided by India regarding the attack on the Pathankot airbase, the offices of the banned militant group are being traced and sealed.

But the statement issued by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office raises questions over the efficacy of such bans on the militant groups in Pakistan where they are soon reincarnated them with a different name to continue their operations right under the government’s nose. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad are some of the appalling examples of the state’s failure to apprehend such groups after banning these groups and the people associated with them. After the attacks on the Indian parliament back in December 2001, allegedly carried out by the JeM, the government of Pakistan banned the militant group in January 2002. 14 years after the group was banned, the government of Pakistan admitted that the offices of the banned group are being traced and sealed only now. The very fact that the JeM was able to operate offices despite a ban leaves a lot to be desired on the part of the state of Pakistan.

Many in Pakistan believe that the government is also under pressure from American officials to take swift action against the outlawed JeM. Five days ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to PM Sharif on the phone, who assured the US that Pakistan is carrying out investigations in a transparent manner to bring out the truth in the Pathankot terror incident.

Hours after the high-level huddle of senior civil and military officials concluded in Islamabad yesterday, media reports revealed that the banned JeM chief Masood Azhar was taken into “protective custody” and questioned over the Pathankot attack. While a federal minister and a former general confirmed on a television talk show last night that the law enforcement agencies have only taken Masood Azhar into protective custody, Pakistan’s Foreign Office today expressed ignorance about the supposed house arrest of the JeM. It’s pertinent to note that the officials have neither confirmed nor denied the arrest of Masood Azhar since the government finds itself in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t conundrum. However, sources close to the JeM chief have confirmed that he has been detained by the Pakistani authorities. While the confusion persists over the JeM chief’s arrest, its existence is not without a few reasons.

Masooz AzharOne of the reasons behind the prevailing confusion over the JeM chief’s arrest is that the government of Pakistan is wary of a possible demand from the Indian government to handover Masood Azhar to them for further investigations. A confirmation in this regard can land Nawaz Sharif in hot water. The government is also mindful of a backlash from the likes of Jamat-e-Islami and other right-wing parties who protested sharply against PM Narendra Modi’s surprise surprise visit to Pakistan on Mr Sharif’s birthday.

The other reason behind the confusion persisting over the arrest of Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the Afghan jihad veterans, is that he enjoys close ties with the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan would be walking on a tight rope if officials confirm his arrest and end up straining their ties with the Afghan Taliban where Pakistan is trying to regain some sort of strategic control.

Hafiz SaeedLast but not the least, a confirmation of the arrest of JeM chief Masood Azhar will incite groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, now known as the Jamat-ud-Dawa and headed by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed which apparently enjoy state patronage.

For Pakistan, the real challenge is to make sure that action against the outlawed JeM us converted into prolonged and consequential measures to prevent the militant group from resurfacing stronger. The state of Pakistan needs to shun its policy of good and bad militants. To permanently seal offices of the militant groups and successfully prosecute those responsible for cross-border terror attacks, a great deal of evidence will need to be gathered. For this purpose, both the countries need to work together and make coordinated efforts to combat terrorism. India’s acceptance of Pakistan’s request to send a Special Investigation Team to probe the Pathankot air base attack is an encouraging development in this regard.

There is a silver lining amidst all the confusion. Both countries have agreed to reschedule Foreign Secretary level talks. Whatever the terrorists intended to achieve with the attack on Pathankot airbase, the governments of India and Pakistan appear to have thwarted with their restraint and mature response.

Source: Why Pak Can’t Say If Jaish Chief Is Arrested