Pakistan Clears JeM Chief of Role in Indian Air Base Attack

Amin Masoodi
160208-IN-peace-effort-620 Police guard a court in Mumbai as an American, who helped plot the 2008 terrorist attacks in India’s financial hub, told the court through a video call that Pakistan-based militants were responsible, Feb. 8, 2016.

Updated at 7:36 a.m. ET on 2016-02-09

A Pakistan government investigation that cleared the leader of a militant group in an attack on an air base in northern India on Jan. 2 may harm the bilateral peace process, analysts say.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month established a special team to examine evidence gathered by India after the attack at the base in Pathankot, Punjab state.

But on Monday, the team absolved Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar – whom Indian authorities had suspected of masterminding the raid – saying it found no substantial evidence against him, media reports said.

“This adverse development will definitely have a negative impact on the bilateral relations and peace efforts between the neighbouring nations,” Rekha Chowdhary, a Jammu-based political analyst, told BenarNews.

“After some positive signals from Pakistan, initially in light of investigations into the terror attack, a clean chit to Azhar has come much to the disappointment of India. There are internal forces in Pakistan, predominantly the army and intelligence, that do not want Pakistan’s establishment to take action against the terror group,” she added.

An unexpected visit to Pakistan in December by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had opened a window for possible talks between the nuclear-armed rivals, which have been locked in a territorial dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir since 1947. But Indo-Pakistani foreign secretary-level talks were called off after the attack on the air base.

“Even analysts in Pakistan want the government to deal sternly with terror operatives, but today’s development has once again clearly reflected that there is no consensus in Pakistan with regard to the recent terror attack and subsequent investigations,” Chowdhary said.

Sameer Patil, a security analyst at Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House, agreed that the outcome of the Pakistani investigation could adversely affect the peace process.

“Now, I think, India will spare no efforts in naming and shaming Pakistan at the international level as a country that promotes cross-border terrorism,” Patil told BenarNews.

India will not resume dialogue with Pakistan unless the establishment acts against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack, Patil said.

“India has seen such denials from Pakistan earlier as well,” he said, pointing to the case of Hafiz Sayeed, the head of the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah militant group, who was accused of masterminding the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai.

On Monday, David Coleman Headley, an American convicted of helping to plot the attack that killed 164 people in India’s financial hub, told a court in United States that lectures by Sayeed motivated him to join the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Patil noted.

One-way peace effort?

Following the air base attack, Indian officials said they gave Pakistan credible information about mobile phone numbers used by the handlers of six JeM militants suspected of storming the military facility.

On Monday, Pakistani officials said there was no information available to identify the owners of those numbers, according to the website Earlier, Islamabad dismissed a proposal by New Delhi to jointly interrogate the JeM chief and other suspects arrested in the case.

Six suspected JeM militants attacked the Indian base on Jan. 2, killing seven security personnel. All six suspects were killed as well.

A Delhi-based political analyst said the recent development may not have a material effect on the peace process.

“In pursuit of improved bilateral relations and to combat terrorism, India has put in much more effort than Pakistan to keep the peace process going,” Imtiyaz Ahmad, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told BenarNews.

“This particular development may not have a long-term effect on the relationship between two neighboring nations. However, the relations may remain strained for sometime as India will continue to demand stern punishment for the perpetrators of Pathankot attack,” he added.


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