Just as the events after Pathankot attacks have started to resemble the events following the 2008 Mumbai attacks – collapse of peace initiatives, escalation in tension, and a Pakistani commitment to investigation – the investigations themselves are following similar paths.

Members of the Jaish-e-Mohammed have been taken into “protective custody” – an informal arrest of sorts without the legal consequences – while the Prime Minister’s emphatic words on the subject suggest an impending charge against the ‘suspects’. However, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to investigate the matter has come up short. It claims it has followed the given leads to their futile conclusion, and more evidence is needed from the Indian side if it is to mount a credible case. Once more the parallels to the Zakiur-Rehman Lakhvi case are clear. If (recent) history is any guide, the Pathankot investigation is headed nowhere.

However the government still has the opportunity to avoid another long and embarrassing saga like the Lakhvi trial. Lakhvi still hasn’t been convicted because the Indian and Pakistani investigations failed to cooperate sufficiently. The ‘dossiers’ of information provided by the Indian investigators were definitely informational, but were inadmissible in Pakistani courts while most Pakistani prosecution evidence was mostly based on hearsay, since it had not been given direct access to the crime location or physical evidence. This basic flaw in the investigation coupled with the lack of political will to see the investigation through has led to the present impasse; which to date undermines any initiative towards peace.

If the Prime Minister is sincere in his vow to investigate the attack, and adamant on restarting the peace process then the options are quite clear. The government must make sure that its investigators have full access to any evidence gathered by its Indian counterparts, which should ideally consist of the Pakistani investigators traveling to India. This entails tough negotiations and several uneasy situations for the foreign ministry to handle, but it can be done. The investigation should not falter for the lack of commitment, for the future of the peace initiative in inexorably linked to fate of this investigation.

Even if it is not possible to link Jaish-e-Mohammed to the Patankot attack – a possibility despite best intentions and effort – the government can still repair matters to an extent. The group is a banned organisation that has been operating freely in violation of the law. Conviction of the groups leader’s for collateral crimes – even smaller ones – may go a long way in bringing the peace process back on track. The ball is firmly in the Prime Minister’s court.