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Modi at Pathankot air base to take stock

62Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Pathankot on Saturday morning to take stock of the situation in the aftermath of the terror attack at the air base last Saturday.

He is likely to conduct an aerial survey of Punjab’s border areas and address the soldiers at the air force base.

Security had been tightened ahead of the PM’s visit in the morning and there was a large media presence awaiting the PM’s arrival.

Security forces had declared the sprawling Air Force station fully sanitised on Friday after a massive combing operation spanning over three days.

“The combing operation at the Air Force station is over,” a senior IAF official said, adding the entire area has been sanitised.

Suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists carried out the attack at the Pathankot air base last Saturday. The siege continued for three days ending with the security forces killing all the six terrorists. Seven security personnel were also martyred in the operation.

Meanwhile, Pakistan needs concrete evidence from India for acting against the elements it suspects of being involved in the terrorist strike at Pathankot airbase instead of ‘leads’ suggesting the attack was planned and directed from here.

“We are expecting evidence beyond leads and information to proceed as per our law,” a senior official told Dawn in a background discussion after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting of his security aides on the Pathankot incident and Pakistan’s response.

The official’s comments provided an insight into Pakistan’s planned response to India, which had shared what was described as ‘leads’ and ‘actionable intelligence’, with Pakistani authorities. Officials had previously said that the shared information included intercepts of telephone calls made by militants to their alleged handlers and the locations of the numbers which they (militants) had called in Pakistan.

Soon after receiving the ‘leads’ Pakistan had acknowledged that they had been shared and were being investigated. PM Sharif, who had then telephoned his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, assured him of “prompt and decisive action” against those found guilty.

India alleges that militant organisation Jaish-i-Muhammad was behind the attack. Mr Modi in his telephonic conversation with Mr Sharif stressed the need for Pakistan to take firm and immediate action against “the organisations and individuals” India suspected to be linked to the attack.

The meeting at PM House, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, reviewed the “progress on the information shared by India” and decided to continue discussing the matter with Indian authorities.

The session that was attended by almost all the major names in government’s national security hierarchy further underscored the administration’s commitment to cooperate with India in countering terrorism.

Another important message conveyed by the meeting was that the entire political and military leadership and institutions were united in their policy of eliminating terrorism and extremism.

India has apparently linked the upcoming foreign secretaries meeting scheduled for Jan 15 to Pakistan’s response to the information provided by it.

An Indian official, meanwhile, said that Pakistan’s formal response to the shared intelligence was still awaited.

“There is no deadline. But, we hope Pakistan takes action in time so that scheduled foreign secretaries talks are not hampered,” the official added.

The participants of the meeting chaired by PM Sharif, according to PMO statement, hoped that both countries would “remain committed to a sustained, meaningful and comprehensive dialogue process”.

Those who attended the national security meeting included Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua, ISI Director General Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and DG Military Operations Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza.