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Pak declines joint grilling of JeM chief with India

By The Assam Tribune

Islamabad, Jan 25 (IANS): Pakistan has turned down India's proposal to jointly interrogate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and other suspects linked with Pathankot Air Base attack, official sources said.

Authorities in Pakistan have detained Masood Azhar after the January 2 terrorist attack at Pathankot Air Base. Several other suspects were arrested and authorities closed down a number of JeM-run madarsas (seminaries) in different cities, The Nation reported on Monday.

Azhar, who was released from an Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for 155 passengers of the Indian Airlines plane hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan, was quizzed by the investigators. The JeM chief's brother Mufti Abdul Rehman Rauf was also detained, officials said on Saturday.

Pakistan is likely to send a special investigating team to Pathankot in consultation with the Indian Government for further investigations.

On January 2, heavily armed militants, suspected to be from Pakistan, attacked the Pathankot airbase. A total of six terrorists and seven security personnel were killed in the operations. Following the attacks, Indian and Pakistani governments agreed to postpone scheduled diplomatic talks till the end of January.

French President Francois Hollande on Monday said India was "fully justified" in asking Pakistan for justice against the perpetrators of Pathankot attack. Hollande said India and France were "united in their determination to act together against terrorism".

India wanted to send investigators to interrogate Masood Azhar and his brother but Pakistan "politely refused" it, a senior official said.

Pakistan assured India that Islamabad was seriously investigating the case and will not hesitate to act if anyone was found guilty, the official said.

"India wants us to hand over Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed and as we have declined a number of times, they want us to at least give access to the investigators to interrogate them. We have told them it was not possible," he added.

Another official said investigators were interrogating the suspects arrested in the Pathankot case. He said the authorities were in contact with India and keeping them updated. Pakistan has already submitted initial report to India regarding Pathankot attack.

The cell numbers used by the attackers, according to the report, were not registered and could not be traced in Pakistan.

Pakistan had been working on the Indian leads to find out if at all Pakistan's soil was used in the plot, he said.

Analyst Brigadier (retd) Agha Hussain Ahmed said the basic motive of terrorists behind this attack was to derail the recently initiated peace process between Pakistan and India. "Pakistan has assured the Indian Government of its full support in this regard and demanded India to hand over the proofs and evidence against any Pakistani involvement to take further action. Investigation of our citizens must be held in Pakistan," he added.

Defence analyst Mohammed Khan said the two countries needed to see who was behind the attack on Pathankot Air Base in India.

"Pakistan warmly welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his arrival to Lahore. The international community appreciated the meeting between the two premiers and stressed to resolve all matters by using the option of dialogue. After the Pathankot incident, Indian media said the military establishment of Pakistan is against the talks between India and Pakistan," he said.

Mohammed Khan said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif both have stressed that Pakistan will fully cooperate with India in eliminating and countering terrorism. He said Pakistan could not hand over its citizens to India or any other country for investigations.

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