NEW DELHI: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has revealed that one of the mobile phone numbers linked to those who attacked the Pathankot airbase had been traced to the Jaish-e-Mohammed group’s headquarters in Bahawalpur.

Mr Aziz called the lodging of the FIR in connection with the Pathankot assault a “logical and positive step” in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

JeM chief Masood Azhar has been named by India as the mastermind of the airbase attack and Mr Aziz confirmed media reports that he (Azhar) had been under “protective custody” since Jan 14.

The adviser told India Today news channel it was for India to decide on dates for foreign secretary-level talks, postponed in the wake of the airbase attack.

He said a Special Investigation Team (SIT) from Pakistan may visit Pathankot in the first few days of March to probe the attack and that his country was pursuing the investigation seriously.

Speaking to Karan Thapar of Headlines Today, Mr Aziz said that Azhar, along with a few other operatives of JeM, had been kept under protective custody and that some of the JeM’s premises had been sealed. He said action would follow against Azhar and others the moment evidence became available.

Mr Aziz said the FIR filed four days back in the Pathankot attack case had created legal basis for a Special Investigation Team of Pakistan to visit India to collect evidence.

He said India had agreed to the SIT visit.

Asked about Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s comment that SIT would not be allowed to go inside the airbase in Pathankot, Mr Aziz said access to crime scene always helped investigators.

On holding of the foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries, Aziz said the “ball is in India’s court”.

“The answer to it lies entirely with India,” he said, adding he hoped Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif would meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington next month.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2016

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