The National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) charge sheet in the Pathankot airbase terror attack of January 2 this year, naming Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and three others of his outfit as accused is a reaffirmation of what has been commonly known and accepted in India. It is in a sense a reminder that we in India are left twiddling our thumbs as Pakistan-based terrorists, aided and abetted by that country’s establishment spread mayhem in India. So immune is Pakistan to being exposed that it has chosen to not even react to the Indian court’s judgement. The charge sheet, which also named Azhar’s brother Rauf Asghar as an accused, has alleged that immediately after the attack, he had hosted a video message claiming responsibility for the terror strike and glorified the role of Azhar, who was released in exchange for passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814 in 1999. With China continuing to stonewall Indian efforts to get UN sanctions against terrorist Masood Azhar and his group, all that India will be left doing now is to use the charge sheet at various international fora to highlight his role in the Pathankot attack. How that would help is anybody’s guess especially when the US has proved time and again that it is insensitive to Indian concerns and China has shown its true anti-India colours.
The Pathankot attack saw a joint investigation team from Pakistan arriving in India to carry out a probe which ended up being a total farce. With the Pakistan Army and the ISI being behind the terror attacks, it was small wonder that the team rejected the Indian stand claiming that India neither shared much of evidence nor allowed it to interrogate the security personnel involved in dealing with the attack. It is time we learnt that so long as the Pakistan Army remains the principal actor, there can be no durable peace with our northern neighbour. Instead of molly-coddling, we must step up our retaliatory strikes across the border and our diplomatic offensive in the world at large. The fact that the trial of Azhar and his accomplices has been swift is a silver lining to the otherwise dark clouds. The signals emanating from the US are confusing with Donald Trump all set to take over as president in a month. Efforts to have Pakistan declared as a terror state need to be stepped up. At the same time, internal security needs to be further strengthened.
While the release of Masood Azhar from an Indian jail in exchange for passengers of a hijacked Indian plane in 1999 has proved a costly blunder by the BJP, JeM terrorist Shahid Latif, chief handler of the fidayeen squad that attacked the Pathankot airbase in January, was released by India in 2010 as part of the Manmohan Singh government’s effort to repair ties with Pakistan. Both the principal parties—the BJP and the Congress— need to learn lessons from these.