Pathankot investigation: Pak to consider Indian team’s request to visit after Eid

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The government has decided to consider after Eidul Fitr whether or not to allow Indian investigation team to visit Pakistan to probe into an attack on an Indian airbase.

The attack took place in January 2016 when six gunmen laid siege to the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, in Indian Punjab. Six Indian servicemen were killed in the attack. New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militant group for orchestrating the brazen assault, though its top intelligence official admitted they don’t have evidence to establish that the Pakistani state was in any way involved.

A high-level meeting to be attended by top civil and military officials will be convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after he returns from London to discuss an Indian request for a visit by its investigators and issues related to the future of bilateral dialogue between the two neighbours.

A senior official, who is part of the government’s core team dealing with India, told that the meeting would decide whether to allow a team from India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) to travel to Pakistan for carrying forward the probe into the Pathankot attack.

Islamabad, which strongly condemned the attack, had formed a joint investigation team, which undertook a week-long visit to India in March to determine the involvement of JeM in the attack. The team comprising officials from police and intelligence agencies had met officials from NIA in New Delhi and had also been given access to the Pathankot airbase where the attack took place.

However, Pakistan contended that its investigators were given limited access as they were not allowed to meet eyewitnesses. India, in return, requested Pakistan to allow its investigators to visit the country to question alleged masterminds of the attack including JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother.

Pakistan has so far not officially responded to the Indian request as it is currently studying various options.

Given this and also reservations of the country’s security establishment, the government is unlikely to accept India’s request. An official told media that the decision will be taken after Eid.

The Pathankot attack led to the cancellation of crucial foreign secretary-level talks, which were to take place in mid-January. Since then India has been reluctant to return to the negotiating table, although Pakistan has consistently maintained that it is ready for talks at any time.