March 29:India shared the evidence it has collected on the Pathankot attack with Pakistan on Monday after the two countries began formal discussions on investigations into January’s terror attack at the Indian Air Force base, making it the first-ever visit of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) — that included an ISI official — from the neighbouring country.
India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) showed the JIT the evidence that proves the Pakistani establishment was complicit in the attack. It also gave the phone numbers to which terrorists made calls. However, the JIT has asked permission to interrogate the commander of the IAF air base, asked for call details of the Punjab officer Salwinder Singh who was purportedly abducted by the terrorists, copies of all FIRs registered in connection with the case, and the mobile phones recovered from the terrorists.
The five-member Pakistani JIT is headed by Chief of Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Muhammad Tahir Rai and comprises Lahore’s Deputy Director General, Intelligence Bureau, Mohammad Azim Arshad, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official Lieutenant-Colonel Tanvir Ahmed, Military Intelligence official Lieutenant-Colonel Irfan Mirza and Gujaranwala CTD Investigating Officer, Shahid Tanveer.
The team was received at the headquarters of National Investigation Agency by Inspector-General Sanjiv Kumar Singh.
The Pakistanis are being given a detailed presentation on the probe done by Indian agencies so far and evidences that show that the attack was planned in Pakistan, official sources said.
The team that arrived on Sunday will on Tuesday visit Pathankot for the probe into the attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group on 2 January, which left seven security personnel dead.
The IAF base will be visually barricaded by NIA to prevent any view of critical areas.
The NIA team will however, show some of the areas where the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists engaged in an 80-hour-long gun battle with security personnel.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar categorically said on Monday that the defence ministry had “not permitted” the visiting team into the Indian Air Force base and that the crime scene, handed over to the NIA, had been isolated.
Parrikar said the Defence Ministry “refused permission” to the probe team to access the airbase but added: “The crime scene has been handed over to the NIA. Who they want to bring there is their call.”
The minister said the area had been fenced and had no contact with the airbase. The probe team was not given permission to interact with any defence personnel or use any defence vehicle.
“If we don’t give (NIA) the freedom for investigation, the burden of failure will come to the defence ministry,” Parrikar added.
India plans to provide the Pakistani team access to all witnesses in the case, but not to the security personnel from National Security Guard or BSF.
The witnesses include Punjab Police Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma, cook Madan Gopal and 17 injured persons.
Sources said that cooperation with the Pakistani team would be based on the principle of reciprocity hoping that an Indian team would be allowed to travel to Pakistan at a later date. It may be recalled that in the 26 November, 2008 Mumbai attacks case, Pakistan had sent a judicial commission to cross-examine some of the witnesses in the case.