Pakistan may make Pathankot mastermind available for questioning if he is found guilty

Islamabad: Pakistan on Tuesday said it may make JeM leader Masood Azhar, the mastermind of the Pathankot terror attack, available to Indian investigating agencies for questioning, but it will first investigate the case.

Aziz also described as “outdated” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s remarks that non-state actors operate in Pakistan with support of the establishment and said he needs to update this narrative.

“First of all, we have to investigate ourselves and (find out) what it is… if he (Masood) does something (wrong) we would move against (him),” Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Pakistan Prime Minister, told Defense Writers Group at a breakfast meeting on Tuesday.
pathankot air base

Aziz was responding to a question if Pakistan would make Masood available for interrogation if the JeM leader is found guilty of the Pathankot terrorist attack. He was asked the question twice during an hour-long meeting with reporters over a breakfast.

“Is he (Masood) going to be shared with India for interrogation?” he was asked by a journalist.
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“I think, (Pakistan’s) response to (terrorist attack in) Pathankot has been very positive and prompt. Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) immediately called the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and said we are ready to co-operate,” he said.

“So whatever intelligence came from there (India), national security advisor, immediate action was taken to take under protective custody some of their leaders as well as sealed their facilities, set up a joint investigation team. The first information report which is a legal requirement for our investigations to begin has been filed,” he said.

Pakistan last week set up a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase, a week after it lodged an FIR over the assault without naming Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood who India has accused of having masterminded the strike.

“I am hoping that the investigation team would now go (to India) in the next few days. Then you would be able to trace the phone calls, who all…The phone call (from India) came to one or two numbers but then their links and the identities of the four people who were killed in the attack are also got to be established yet, as we haven’t got the right photographs or finger prints of those,” Aziz said.

“So once the process goes and considering the time that has elapsed, very good progress is being made and I hope that this would demonstrate to India that we are co-operating in this exercise and they would share the evidence that we require and whatever prosecution would require would take place,” Aziz said in response to a question.

Referring to the Parrikar’s remarks on non-state actors, Aziz said, “I think; it is out of date. This is the old narrative which India has been following. The situation (in Pakistan) is now very different.”

The terror attack on Pathankot Airbase on January 2 was carried out by Pakistan’s “non-state actors” who operate with support of the Pakistani establishment, Parrikar had said.

In response, Aziz said, “Initially there were sympathies for certain groups, but after the December 2014 (army) school attack and the policy that there is no good and bad terrorist and we are going to move against all of them (things have changed).”

“But obviously you can’t move against all of them. (We would move against them) gradually and sequentially. So to that extent, I think the policy direction is very clear. And on the whole there was support for these groups within the local community, for example funding because many of them had a lot of welfare activities and under the cover of that they would raise funds. Now it is being monitored. You can’t collect fund without any accounting,” he said.

“So I think, the suspicion (of Parrikar) refers to the old previous ones when the Afghan related…you do not forget that the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan were trained, funded and armed jointly by the US and Pakistan. Then it was a different kind of operation. At that time they were not terrorists. They were called holy warriors. Once 9/11 happened they all became terrorist,” he said.

“Our policy of not supporting them is very significant. Because we realised that supporting them is bad for all our security. That’s why our relationship with Afghanistan started improving. The same is true with others. So I think, one has to update this narrative,” Aziz said while responding to the question on the statement made by Parrikar.