‘India has less than 60 days to link Azhar with Pathankot attack’

Islamabad, Jan 19 (IANS) India has now less than 60 days to provide concrete evidence linking Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar with the January 2 Pathankot Air Force base attack, an expert in international law has said.

Azhar is under custody in Islamabad. If India does not provide concrete evidence, he will be released or will challenge his detention in the high court and may secure bail like Hafiz Saeed did, The News International on Tuesday quoted former law minister and an expert on International Law Ahmer Bilal Soofi as saying.

Hafiz Saeed was detained after the 2008 Mumbai attacks but he secured release after filing a petition in Lahore High Court, while both governments remained unclear about how to provide legal cover to the case, Soofi said.

“The Attorney General for Pakistan at that time (Mumbai attacks) had to concede that India had not provided sufficient evidence of attribution,” said Soofi.

The lawyer also said that India, through its actions, has proved that the attackers could be international non-state actors and not necessarily Pakistani citizens.

Maulana Masood Azhar has been charged with being the mastermind of the January 2 Pathankot terror attack which left seven security personnel and six attackers killed.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered that a special investigation team (SIT) would investigate the terrorist attack. This was welcomed by New Delhi which said Indian intelligence agencies will extend full cooperation to the Pakistani SIT.

There is a provision in Pakistan in which a person can be detained for 30 days in preventive custody and can be investigated as well. The detention is extendable by a further 30 days.

Under this provision, India has now less than 60 days to provide more concrete evidence of linking Maulana Masood Azhar with the Pathankot attack.

India has not handed over concrete evidence to Pakistani government. It has given two cell phone numbers to probe further.

“Once the Pakistani investigation team concludes its visit to India, it can then make a judgement call if an FIR should be registered in Pakistan or not. The FIR may not necessarily be detailed or mention any specific names,” Soofi said.

“After the registration of an FIR, the formal process of notification of a Joint Investigation Team may commence. The JIT can then, in a formal sense, proceed to India to seek cooperation on the investigation side and request access to the site and other evidence. The legal process will then continue to move at its own pace,” he said.

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