ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has turned down an Indian proposal to jointly interrogate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and other suspects arrested in the Pathankot terror attack case, official sources said.Authorities in Pakistan held Maulana Masood Azhar in ‘protective custody’ after the January 2 Pathankot incident. Several other suspects were arrested and authorities closed down a number of JeM-run madrassas (seminaries) in different cities.

Officials said Maulana Azhar, who was released from an Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for 155 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane, was quizzed by the investigators. The JeM chief’s brother Mufti Abdul Rehman Rauf is also detained. Pakistan is likely to send a Special Investigating Team to Pathankot in consultation with the government of India for further investigations. On January 2, a heavily armed group attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station, part of the Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force. Five attackers and seven security forces personnel were killed in the battle. India believed the attackers, who were wearing Indian army fatigues, belonged to JeM.

Following the attacks, the Indian and Pakistani governments both agreed to postpone scheduled diplomatic talks until the end of January. Questions were raised about the lack of clear command structure within the Indian security forces, the 17-hour long duration of the attack, high casualties, lack of co-ordination between various units and premature statements claiming the end of the attack in spite of receiving accurate intelligence about the attack. Yesterday, French President Francois Hollande said India was ‘fully justified’ in asking Pakistan for justice against the perpetrators of the Pathankot terror attack earlier this month.

Hollande said India and France were ‘united in their determination to act together against terrorism.’ The French leader was in Chandigarh yesterday for his three-day India visit, during which he will also be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will receive him in the ‘City Beautiful’ where they will also attend a business summit and visit various landmarks. A senior government official told The Nation, India wanted to send its investigators to interrogate Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother but Pakistan ‘politely refused’.

He said Pakistan assured India it was seriously investigating the case and will not hesitate to act if anyone was found guilty. “Basically India wants us to handover Maulana Masood Azhar and Hafiz Mohammed Saeed (Jamatud Dawa chief) and as we have declined a number of times, they want us to at least give access to the investigators to quiz 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. The official said Pakistan has already submitted initial report to India regarding the Pathankot terror attack.

The telephone numbers allegedly used by the attackers – according to the report - were not registered and could not be traced to Pakistan.

He said Pakistan had been working on the Indian leads to find out if at all Pakistan’s soil was used in the plot. Analyst Brig (r) 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 Dr Mohammed Khan said the two countries needed to see who was behind the attack on Pathankot Airbase in India. “Pakistan warmly welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he came to Pakistan. The international community has also appreciated the meeting between the premiers of both countries and stressed to resolve all matters by using the option of dialogue. After the Pathankot incident, Indian media has created a false propaganda that the military establishment of Pakistan is against the talks between India and Pakistan,” he said.  Dr Khan said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif both have stressed that Pakistan will fully cooperate with India in elimination and countering terrorism. He said Pakistan could not handover its citizens to India or any other country for investigations.