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Pak lodges FIR in Pathankot terror attack case

Air Force base that was attacked by militants in Pathankot

Lahore/Islamabad :  Pakistani authorities have lodged an FIR in connection with the Pathankot terror attack without naming JeM chief Masood Azhar who India has accused of having masterminded the strike.

The FIR was filed against “unknown persons” after weeks of probe into the assault that had led to the postponement of Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary-level talks. It was registered at Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) centre in Gujranwala, Punjab province, yesterday.

According to a CTD official, the FIR was needed to start police and judicial proceedings on the basis of evidence collected in connection with the attack for which India has blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group.

India has identified Azhar as the mastermind of the attack. It has also blamed his brother Rauf and five others for carrying out the attack.

The FIR has been lodged on the basis of information provided by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval that four attackers probably crossed from Pakistan into India and attacked the airbase on January 2.

The FIR number 06/2016 was lodged under sections 302, 324 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code, and sections 7 and 21-I of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The FIR also mentions the telephone numbers contacted by the militants during the attack.

The attack led to the postponement of a scheduled meeting between Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India in January in Islamabad. Since then, no date has been fixed for talks.

The FIR has reportedly been registered on the recommendations of a six-member special team probing the attack.

Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif had formed the six-member investigation team headed by Additional Inspector General of Punjab’s CTD Rai Tahir to probe India’s assertion that JeM was behind the attack.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah today said India will be asked for more information after the registration of the FIR.

Sanaullah told reporters in Lahore that the FIR shows Pakistan’s “commitment” against militancy.

“We will seek more information from India,” he said.

Responding to a question, Sanaullah said anyone including Azhar if found guilty of involvement in the attack will be prosecuted.

“No one becomes guilty by naming him. I don’t want to name anyone at this stage. Let the probe be completed and if Masood Azhar was involved, action will be taken,” Sanaullah said.

He also urged India to provide any evidence it has on Azhar or anyone else’s involvement in the attack.

Sanaullah said that a new Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will be formed after the FIR for further investigation.

The minister said the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed on the orders of the Prime Minister was for initial investigation.

However, he did not clarify if the SIT will be dissolved or converted into JIT or a new probe team will be formed.

“The entire world and also India should acknowledge our seriousness in rooting out militancy from the region. India, especially, should not doubt our resolve and honesty,” he said.

Sanaullah acknowledged that it was first incident that an FIR was registered at the compliant by a top Indian official.

“I think militancy can be eliminated from this region if India and Pakistan are on one page,” he said.

According to intelligence officials, about a dozen suspects were arrested in Pakistan following the attack.

Last month, CTD police Gujranwala had presented three JeM militants before an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) for possessing jihadi literature.

The suspects were arrested by CTD from a seminary run by JeM in Mundeyki, where the headquarters of the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-u-Dawah is located.

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