NEW DELHI: A five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed to probe into the Pathankot airbase attack would visit National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters in New Delhi here on Monday.
The investigation team is being headed by Muhammad Tahir Rai, who is the Additional Inspector-General (IG) of Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD). Other members include Intelligence Bureau (IB) Lahore’s Deputy Director Muhammad Azeem Arshad, Lieutenant Colonel of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Tanvir Ahmad, Lieutenant Colonel Irfan Mirza of Military Intelligence (MI) and CTD Gujranwala’s Shahid Tanvir.
According to Indian media, the team will be given a 90-minute presentation by NIA officers about the investigation carried out into the Pathankot attack and on the evidence gathered so far. In the post-lunch session, the members of the JIT are expected to seek clarifications from the Indian investigators on any doubts they may have.
JIT would be granted access to the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Salwinder Singh, who is alleged to be involved in the incident and other eyewitnesses.
The team will also examine the ammunition used in the onslaught.
On Tuesday, the JIT will be taken to Pathankot in a BSF aircraft, but they will not land inside the airbase. The Pakistani officials will only be taken to the “limited area relevant to the investigation”, sources said, adding that the airbase has been “visually barricaded”. The NIA will take them around where it deems fit, sources said. This includes the spot where the terrorists are suspected to have entered the base, as well as the place where the gunbattle took place, an NIA official said.
The team would also be taken to the site where Indian taxi driver Ikagar Singh was murdered by terrorists as well as the spot where they waylaid the vehicle of Punjab SP Salwinder Singh.
“We would like the visiting team from Pakistan to have a look at the bodies of four terrorists lying in the mortuary at Pathankot civil hospital and would want them to take the bodies with them back to Pakistan for burial,” a top NIA official said.
On Wednesday, the JIT will have another round of meetings with NIA officers at the NIA headquarters in New Delhi, during which Indian investigators are expected to ask questions on the status of the probe in Pakistan. NIA officers are expected to seek details on arrests in Pakistan, and the action it has taken on the basis of intercepted telephone call records handed over by NSA Ajit Doval to his Pakistani counterpart, Lieutenant-General Nasir Janjua.
The JIT will be free to question witnesses, who have been called to Delhi, sources said. A total of 17 witnesses, including the injured, have been lined up. However, no security personnel such as those from the National Security Guard or Border Security Force will be allowed to be examined.
On January 2, six militants had stormed Pathankot airbase in Indian Punjab killing around seven personnel. Repercussions of the attack in regard to tensions between Pakistan and India were not as bad as the case has been in the past years.
Pathankot attack came a week after the surprise meeting of Indian PM Modi and PM Nawaz on Christmas at Sharif’s residence in Lahore’s Jati Umrah. Reports claimed that the attack was meant to sabotage the attempt to better relations with the Lahore meeting.
India had suspended all contact with Pakistan in November 2008 after an attack in Mumbai. However, talks were resumed in 2011 amid high tensions across the Line of Control (LoC).
Cross-border shelling claimed lives of dozens of Pakistanis in 2014 and 2015.
The most recent scheduled talks between Pakistan and India, National Security Advisers-level dialogue were postponed after the Pathankot attack.