Pakistan dismisses India's evidence of links to Kashmir bombing

No terrorist camps at sites listed and no links to terrorism among people named in dossier, foreign ministry says

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal speaks to the media at the Foreign office in Islamabad on March 28, 2019.

  Pakistan on March 28 said it had found no links between militants swept up in a recent dragnet and a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir last month that brought the nuclear-armed rivals to the brink of war. / AFP / AAMIR QURESHI
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Pakistan has rejected Indian claims it was linked to the Pulwama suicide bombing, saying its investigators found allegations in an intelligence dossier from Delhi were unsubstantiated.

Islamabad said on Thursday it would continue to probe who was behind the February 14 attack in Kashmir that killed at least 40 paramilitary police, but dismissed the evidence put forward by Delhi.

Pakistan's response is likely to intensify anger in India, where the attack immediately came to dominate the campaign for a forthcoming general election. Islamabad has been accused of conducting largely cosmetic investigations and crackdowns on militants after other attacks in India, including the 2008 Mumbai assaults and the 2016 Pathankot attack.

The nuclear-armed adversaries appeared close to another war over the disputed Kashmir region after the Pulwama bombing provoked retaliatory Indian air strikes. The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist group claimed the attack and a video released on its  Telegram channels showed the alleged bomber as a 19-year-old named Adil Dar from the India-controlled portion of Kashmir. Pakistan however disputed the authenticity of the JeM claim of responsibility.

At the height of the stand-off Delhi submitted a 91-page dossier of what it said was detailed evidence of JeM's involvement.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to tackle the militants responsible if India could provide “actionable” evidence they had been linked to his country.

A statement from Pakistan's foreign ministry said the Indian dossier had included the Adil Dar video and the alleged JeM claim of responsibility, as well as “WhatsApp and Telegram numbers used to share videos and messages in support of Pulwama attack, list of 90 individuals suspected of belonging to a proscribed organisation and 22 pin locations of alleged training camps”.

But a month-long investigation found there were no terrorist camps at the locations provided by India, while 54 suspects on the list had been found to not be linked to banned militant groups, Islamabad said.

Much of the evidence, included the alleged claim of responsibility and details of WhatsApp and Telegram accounts used to share support for the bombing, was dismissed as “social media content”.

While requests for technical help to track the phones and WhatsApp communications had been made, so far no links to Pakistan had been found and more detail was needed from India to proceed, the ministry said.

“While 54 detained individuals are being investigated, no details linking them to Pulwama have been found so far,” the statement said. “Similarly, the 22 pin locations shared by India have been examined. No such camps exist. Pakistan is willing to allow visits, on request, to these locations.

“Additional information and documents from India would be essential to continue the process of investigations. Pakistan remains committed to taking this process to its logical conclusion.”

Pakistan earlier this month announced a crackdown on banned militant groups inside the country, including JeM. While the group has long been outlawed in Pakistan, the US State Department said last year that it was still able to raise money, recruit and train.

Mosques, madrassas and humanitarian charities linked to the banned groups have all been taken into government administration and scores of people taken into “preventative custody”.

Pakistan has previously defied international pressure to rein in militant groups on its soil which are alleged to have been harboured and sponsored by sections of its military to provide foreign policy muscle.

The threat of sanctions by the international Financial Action Task Force against money laundering and terrorist financing may now be enough for Pakistan to change its stance, some analysts believe.