Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar — mastermind of the IC-814 hijack case — are among four people identified by Indian intelligence agencies as ‘handlers’ in the Pathankot airbase attack.
The Indian agencies have found evidence that the attack “conspiracy” was hatched near Lahore, according to government sources.
The details of the four people have been shared with Pakistan “through proper channel” and India has pressed for stern action against them as a condition for any future talks with Pakistan, the sources said.
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is understood to have spoken to his Pakistani counterpart Nasser Khan Janjua and shared all relevant evidence including voice data, they said.
The evidence alleging JeM’s involvement in the recent attack may put a question mark on the scheduled foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan in Islamabad on January 15.
Those identified by the Indian agencies are Azhar, Rauf, Ashfaq and Kashim, the sources said. Rauf was the mastermind of the hijack of an Air India plane in Kathmandu in 1999. The aircraft was later taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan.
The eight-day hijack crisis had ended after the release of three hardcore militants including Azhar in exchange for the freedom of passengers and crew members who were held hostage.
Asked as to what action India wants Pakistan to take against these four, the sources said they have to be arrested and handed to New Delhi so they can be questioned in the ongoing investigation.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar recently said there are indications that some of the materials used by the terrorists were made in Pakistan.
Pakistan PM discusses airbase raid
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday chaired a high-level meeting and discussed the Pathankot terror attack as he directed officials to speed up work on the leads given by India, sources said.
“Issues pertaining to national and regional security were discussed during the meeting,” the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad said in a brief statement.
The meeting was attended by Ishaq Dar, Minister for Finance; Nisar Ali Khan, Minister for Interior; Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs; Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, National Security Advisor; Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Foreign Secretary; Aftab Sultan, chief of Intelligence Bureau and other officials.
An official said the information provided by India was not enough as it was just limited to telephone numbers and Pakistan might ask for additional information.
“We would like to have solid information to build a case for action otherwise courts intervene and the suspects are bailed out,” he said.
He added the meeting agreed that strong action would be taken after probe against anyone found guilty of involvement in the attack.
The meeting came as India said it is waiting for “prompt and decisive action” as promised by Sharif to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a telephone call on Tuesday.
India has provided “specific and actionable information in this regard” to Pakistan.
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s army chief Gen Raheel Sharif reaffirmed zero tolerance for terrorist organisations and took a detailed review of overall internal and external security situation in the country.
Combing operation continues
In India, security agencies were on their toes and a combing operation was on in and around Tibri military cantonment area in Gurudaspur a day after some locals in a nearby village claimed sighting of two men in army fatigue moving in suspicious manner, PTI reports.
The area around Tibri cantonment area has been cordoned off and a search was on, police said. .
“There has been no movement (of any suspicious person) noticed. The area around west of Tbri cantonment has been circled by security agencies. A close watch is being kept and thorough checking is underway,” Gurdaspur Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Gurpreet Singh Toor said.
“All vehicles and people, in and around the area, have been physically checked,” he said adding that the situation was under control. The two border districts of Gurdaspur and Pahankot were on high alert, he said.
“We are not taking any chance,” the SSP said, adding that the area would be sanitised properly.
Wednesday, some locals in a village of Gurdaspur district reported sighting of two men in army uniform moving in suspicious manner in Tibri area, police said
Hurriyat condemns terror strike
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) condemned on Wednesday the violent terrorist attack on the Indian airbase in Pathankot and called it a conspiracy to derail talks between Islamabad and New Delhi.
APHC Chairman Mirwaiz Maulvi Umar Farooq told Dawn from Srinagar that the gunmen responsible for the carnage — mostly suspected to belong to the banned Jaish-i-Mohammed group — “were elements who seek to vitiate the atmosphere” between the two countries.
A meeting of the APHC’s executive council chaired by Maulvi Farooq and attended by executive members Maulana Mohammad Abbas Ansari, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Gani Lone, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza and Muhammad Musadiq Adil condemned the attack.
Describing the resumption of dialogue process between India and Pakistan as an encouraging development, the meeting resolved that the positive steps that India and Pakistan had taken over the past month towards the resumption of the dialogue process should be fully supported.