Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said that his government will go to any lengths to uncover the alleged use of its soil in the January 2 attack on the air base in Pathankot by suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists.
This is the clearest signal yet from Pakistan of its intention to investigate the attack, with the bilateral foreign secretary-level talks on hold over the past fortnight. The two sides are yet to exchange dates, according to Indian and Pakistani officials, although they intend to hold the meeting in the “very near future”.
“It is our responsibility to uncover if our soil was used in the attack. We will do this and the ongoing investigations will soon be completed,” Sharif told reporters in Lahore on Saturday. The terrorists were being defeated and carrying out isolated acts in desperation to make their presence felt, he said, adding that the remaining militants will also be eliminated.
The Pathankot attack had a “negative impact” on the talks with India which were “going in the right direction” after the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, said Sharif.
In Delhi, Sharif’s comments were perceived positively and as an acknowledgement that the Pakistan Prime Minister’s hands were tied due to domestic pressures.
Officials said that while Sharif’s comments reflected his intention to improve bilateral relations, they also betray “a sense of frustration” since the talks were derailed by the attack.
“The investigation into the Pathankot incident is underway and we will make its findings public soon. Whatever facts come out, we will bring them before everyone,” said Sharif.
According to Indian officials, this is a clear indication that Sharif wants to get to the bottom of the attack. “The question is whether the Pakistan Army-ISI combination will let him do what he intends to do?” a source said in New Delhi.
In Pakistan, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said none of the “suspects” arrested in connection with the attack have been charged. “The investigation team is probing the matter and its findings will be made public,” Sanaullah told reporters.
Asked about JeM’s role in the attack, Sanaullah said: “The investigation team is also probing this.”
Sharif had formed a six-member committee to investigate the attack in which seven security personnel were killed.
Sources said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has been in touch with his Pakistan counterpart, Nasser Khan Janjua, and information on the probe’s progress is being exchanged on the “NSA track”.