New Delhi/Nagpur: Pakistan media reports that the Pathankot terror attack was “stage-managed” by India are seen in New Delhi as “double-speak” by Pakistan’s security establishment.
“The report in a Pakistan pro-government daily only shows that ISI and Pakistan Army were doing double-speak. India has provided irrefutable evidence to Pakistan Joint Investigation Team (JIT) during their visit here regarding the involvement of Pak-based terrorists,” a government source said.
The news report in daily Pakistan Today quoted an unnamed JIT member as saying that the attack was nothing but “vicious propaganda” against Pakistan as Indian authorities did not have any evidence to back their claims.
Rebutting the report, another government source said the evidence provided to JIT can stand international scrutiny and expressed surprise over media reports emerging that the NIA had not provided enough evidence to the visiting team.
“The JIT was handed over whatever they asked for which included certified copies of statements of witnesses, DNA reports of four terrorists, memos of articles seized from them,” the source said.
Pakistan had made a request under section 188 of Criminal procedure Code of Pakistan for collecting the evidence from the NIA.
The call data records of the two phones snatched from Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh and his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma which were used by the terrorists to call a number in Pakistan were also shared with the JIT, the source said.
India also shared the conversation recorded between Nasir Hussain, one of the four terrorists who carried out the attack on IAF base during the intervening night of 1 and 2 January, with his mother Khayyam Babber. The NIA has asked for a DNA sample from Nasir’s family.
The agency has also handed over call recordings of terrorists holed up inside the IAF base with their handlers including Kashif Jaan, who has since been missing.
The Pakistani JIT had asked NIA to hand over swabs of four terrorists identified as Nasir Hussain (Punjab province), Abu Bakar, (Gujranwala), Umar Farooq and Abdul Qayum (both from Sindh).
However, the NIA handed over to the visitors the DNA report of the terrorists and asked them to match those with their family members, the sources said.
The Pakistani JIT headed by Additional Inspector General of Police, Counter Terrorism Department, Muhammad Tahir Rai and also including ISI’s Lt Col Tanvir Ahmed, had recorded statements of 16 people.
The list for recording the witnesses was submitted to the NIA by the Pakistani team.
The 16 witnesses questioned in all included Singh, Verma and cook Madan Gopal. The three were kidnapped by the Pathankot attack perpetrators belonging to the banned Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed on the intervening night of 31 December, 2015 and 1 January, 2016.
The terrorists had allegedly dumped Verma after slitting his throat and continued their journey with Singh and Gopal before jettisoning them a few kilometres away from the strategic air base at Pathankot.
The terrorists entered the air base and mounted the brazen assault on the intervening night of 1 and 2 January. In the fierce encounter that ensued, seven security personnel besides four terrorists were killed.
What the Pakistani JIT report said
The JIT “says the attack was a drama staged to malign Pakistan,” according to a report in Pakistan Today. It further said that the JIT report, which will be submitted to Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the next few days, has even concluded that Indian authorities had prior information about the terrorists.
The report also quoted a member of the JIT as saying that the NIA officer’s murder on Saturday night in Uttar Pradesh showed that “Indian establishment wants to keep the matter under wraps.”
The same source also told Pakistan Today that the JIT concluded that the standoff between the Indian army and “alleged” terrorists ended within hours after the attack, which apparently made it clear that the attack was a drama staged to malign Pakistan.
“The Indian authorities made it a three-day drama to get maximum attention from the world community in order to malign Pakistan,” Pakistan Today quoted the JIT report as saying.
The source also told Pakistan Today that no “major” damage was done to the base and that the perimeter lights at the airbase were not functional on the day of the attack, which apparently raises questions about whether India had prior information about the terrorists.
This is not the first time, though, that the Pakistani media and the JIT have made allegations of hiding evidence against India.
On 28 March, a report by Pakistani news channel Dunya News had said that Indian authorities showed “signs of reluctance” when the JIT asked them for information and evidence.
“Sketches of the attackers, footage of the closed-circuit television, duty registers of the Border Security Force (BSF), details of the bank accounts, service records, post-mortem report of the driver who died in the car accident at the time of the incident and the FIR of that car’s snatching have not been given to the Pakistani investigation team,” a report in Pakistani newspaper Daily Times had said.
The report had further said that post-mortem and DNA reports of the terrorists involved and phone records and information about the commander of Pathankot airbase had not been given to the JIT.
The Dunya News report had further claimed that the stances of the Indian government and BSF regarding the terror attack were contradicting each other.
Moreover, the report had said that while Indian authorities had said that terrorists had entered the Pathankot airbase after climbing ten-feet walls, no ropes were found as evidence.
These claims by the Pakistani media had come just a day after it was found that Pakistan’s electronic media regulatory body (PEMRA) on Sunday had released a statement for the Pakistani media, asking them to be “professional” and “responsible” when reporting on the Lahore attacks, unlike the Indian media.
What is truly surprising about the Pakistani JIT report’s claim is that it comes just days after the same JIT admitted that the terrorists were from Pakistan. Reports had, in fact, also suggested that Pakistan had enough evidence to link them to extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Moreover, during the beginning of the investigation, Indian investigators had said that the visiting officials did not “contradict” any of the evidence submitted by the NIA.
“The fact that they did not contradict or made any adverse comment or observation is a positive sign,” sources had told media.