Quid pro quo for dialogue process
On a day the Pakistan probe team was allowed to visit Pathankot air base, New Delhi asked for access to Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar, who is accused of masterminding the January 2 terror attack. The development came at a time when a five-member Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) visited the base to carry out its probe into the terror strike targeting the strategic installation in Pathankot. During their investigation, Indian intelligence officials had identified Kashif Jaan as the main handler of the Pakistani terrorists, who was in touch with Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, as the terrorists launched their attack at the base. The call details and intercepts analysed by the agency pointed to the involvement of JeM top brass in the attack. India handed over the evidence and demanded immediate action into the case. Based on the evidence, Pakistan was forced to register a case to investigate the conspiracy behind masterminding the attack. But in the FIR lodged by Pakistani officials, Masood Azhar was not named, despite the mountain of evidence presented by New Delhi. The previous Pakistan government-appointed Special Investigation Team, however, had also contended that there was no real evidence against Masood Azhar and JeM for their alleged role in the Pathankot. Suffice to say, it had only indicated Pakistan's unwillingness to dismantle these terror networks. Depending on which Pakistani media report one wishes to believe, Masood Azhar is either "missing" or in "custody" or in "protective custody". New Delhi is keen to kick-start the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD) process, irrespective of actual gains. The willingness to host a Pakistani investigative team in Pathankot is probably part of that effort. It is now for Pakistan to respond to that gesture and act in good faith. In other words, it must allow India access to JeM chief Masood Azhar. One must remember that the CBD process was brought to a halt due to the Pathankot attack. But past precedent does not give us much hope. The Pakistani military establishment's use of terror groups such as the JeM for strategic purposes is well known. Unless and until such terror organisations are allowed to operate and organise within Pakistan, its government will have to take responsibility for the attacks they conduct outside their borders. While the Pakistan Army has waged a battle against the likes of Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistan Taliban), it has unfortunately continued to support terror organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.