Indian security forces patrol the Pathankot airbase following the assault,
in which seven soldiers were killed. Photograph: Imago/Barcroft
Pakistan said it had arrested members of the Islamist terror group widely blamed for a four-day attack on an airbase in
that threatened to wreck a
thaw in relations between the two countries. India
“The offices of the organisation are also being traced and sealed,” said a statement from the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
The government said
was considering sending its
own investigators to Pathankot, where six gunmen assaulted an airbase on 2
January, killing seven soldiers. Pakistan
Past crackdowns on JeM ultimately failed to dismantle an organisation that continues to operate openly in
through its charity wing and
numerous publications. Pakistan
Wednesday’s announcement is nonetheless a potentially significant step against an organisation long patronised by
’s military establishment as a
proxy force against Pakistan . India
The announcement was cheered by peace campaigners, who feared the Pathankot incident had been deliberately mounted to derail a renewal of high-level diplomatic engagement between the two south Asian countries, which have fought four wars since independence in 1947.
India’s foreign secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaisankar, is due to travel to Islamabad on Friday to discuss the resumption of the peace process between the neighbouring states, which has been stalled since the Mumbai terror attackslaunched by Pakistan-based terrorists on targets in India’s commercial capital in 2008.
The meeting has hung in the balance as
waited to see whether Delhi would respond to the demand by
the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, for Islamabad to take “firm and immediate”
action against those responsible for planning the Pathankot attack. Islamabad
Many analysts suspect the incident, and an assault by gunmen on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan on 3 January, were deliberately intended to spoil historic overtures Modi made on 25 December during a surprise visit to the Pakistani city of
Some even feared that
’s powerful military
establishment, rumoured to be unhappy with Sharif’s determination for rapid
rapprochement with Pakistan , may have authorised the
JeM has long been associated with
’s military intelligence
agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which used the group
as a proxy force to launch attacks inside Indian-held Kashmir,
a Muslim-majority state that Pakistan claims for itself. Pakistan
Masood Azhar, the group’s leader, was arrested in the aftermath of a JeM assault on
’s parliament in 2001, but a
court released him the following year. India
Imtiaz Alam, the head of the South Asia Free Media Association, which campaigns for peace between the two countries, said the JeM arrests showed the military were serious in their oft-stated claim to be cracking down on all terrorist groups.
“They are no more supported, even if some elements may have become autonomous and are doing their own private practice,” he said.
“It is a very good omen that
is taking the investigation
seriously. Even hawks like the Indian home minister says he has confidence in
the Pakistani investigation.” Pakistan
Modi, a Hindu nationalist who won power in a landslide victory in 2014, has repeatedly surprised observers with a series of unorthodox initiatives aimed at engaging with his counterpart in
He invited Sharif to his inauguration ceremony, but then allowed the armed forces to take part in a major artillery duel with their Pakistani counterparts after clashes along the contested border.
Senior officials later said that both moves had been designed to test
’s reactions and gauge the
strength of its military’s influence on security and foreign policy. Pakistan
The Pathankot assault, which dragged on for days before all the attackers were killed, has prompted fierce domestic criticism of
’s security agenciesand the
national security adviser, Ajit Doval. India
Newspapers have reported poor perimeter security, coordination and decision-making – the Indian Express described “glaring gaps in planning, command, training and equipment” – and ministers have been accused of making a series of misleading statements.
Underlining the complexity of evolving threats from terrorism in the region,
suffered an attack on one of
its diplomatic missions on Wednesday when three attackers attempted to storm
the consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Pakistan , the capital of Nangarhar
Local officials said at least seven members of the Afghan security forces were killed in an assault claimed by Islamic State, which has secured a foothold in Nangarhar.
The group claimed the attackers had succeeded in killing “several Pakistani intelligence officers”, but
said all of its staff were
Additional reporting by Mokhtar Amiri in Kabul