Pak arrests terror suspects, sets up joint probe team

New Delhi: Islamabad initiated a multi-agency probe against Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operatives based in Pakistan, and a team of Pak officials on Monday reportedly arrested some suspected plotters of the recent terror attack on Pathankot Air Force Station in India.

Pakistan Prime Minister M Nawaz Sharif, late on Sunday, ordered constitution of a Joint Investigating Team (JIT) to probe the information New Delhi shared with Islamabad on the role of JeM plotters in the attacks on the Pathankot IAF base in Punjab.

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Sharif set up the team after US Secretary of State John Kerry called him on Saturday and nudged him to act against the JeM on the basis of information provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to his counterpart Naseer Khan Janjua. The JIT reportedly comprised officials drawn from three agencies of Pakistan – Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence.

Quoting Pakistani news channel ARY News, the PTI reported from Islamabad on Monday that “some arrests” had been made in connection with the latest terror attack in India.

“The intelligence agencies have picked up some suspects from Bahawalpur on the leads provided by India in Pathankot airbase attack and shifted them to undisclosed location for interrogation,” the ARY News reported, without making public the identity of the arrested.

Bahawalpur is the home town of JeM founder Moulana Masood Azhar and the outfit is headquartered there.

The Regional Police Officer (RPO Bahawalpur) Ahsan Saddique was quoted as stating that he was not aware of any arrest in connection with the attack at Pathankot in India.

The news agency, however, quoted unidentified officials of intelligence agencies stating that raids had been carried out in Gujranwala, Jhelum and Bahawalpur districts of Pakistan and an unspecified number of people were arrested. “Probe is on to ascertain if they were involved in the attack or some of them facilitated it,” the PTI reported, quoting the officials in Islamabad.

Janjua, National Security Advisor to Sharif, is understood to have shared with Doval a preliminary report on the investigation conducted in Pakistan. The report, according to Geo News of Pakistan, pointed out that the phone numbers New Delhi provided to Islamabad had not been registered in the neighbouring country. The JeM operatives, according to New Delhi, used the phones to call the terrorists, who carried out the attack on the IAF base in Pathankot.

Uncertainty, however, continued to loom large over resumption of the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue, as New Delhi remained non-committal about the proposed visit of Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to Islamabad on January 15 for a meeting with his counterpart A A Chaudhry.

Jaishankar and Chaudhry were expected to discuss modalities and schedule for a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue, as New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to caption their engagement when it restarted after a two-year long hiatus.

Officials told Deccan Herald in New Delhi that India would take a call on its Foreign Secretary’s visit to Islamabad only after assessing actions initiated by Pakistan against the JeM operatives, who coordinated the recent attack from their headquarters in the neighbouring country.

New Delhi has been asking Islamabad to act promptly against Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf Ashgar and close aides Ashfaq Ahmad, Hafiz Abdul Shakur and Kasim Jaan, who were coordinating the attack on Pathankot from Bahawalpur in Pakistan.

“We can take a call (on going ahead with Foreign Secretary level talks) only if we are satisfied that they are really taking action against the real terror plotters and not resorting to any diversionary tactics or preparing the stage to go back on denial mode,” an official told Deccan Herald here.

Jaishankar, who left on a visit to Maldives and Sri Lanka on Monday, will return to New Delhi on Wednesday.

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