An air-tight case: On Pulwama attack case charge sheet

Further clarity emerges on the JeM’s and Pakistan’s role in the Pulwama attacks

August 28, 2020 12:15 am | Updated 12:21 am IST

A year and a half after the dastardly terror attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama that killed 40 personnel, the National Investigation Agency has filed a charge sheet against 19 people including Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, for planning the attack. Considering the difficulties in piecing together the minutiae in the case, the agency’s painstaking effort must be acknowledged. The identity of the key perpetrators was never in doubt after the JeM claimed responsibility immediately after the attack in February 2019 . The charge sheet details the role of the JeM’s handlers and its local associates in Kashmir and how the attack was in the works since 2016. The JeM’s role was in reconnaissance, training and indoctrination, but the group could not have procured and transported the high-intensity explosives without the involvement of the Pakistani security establishment. The chargesheet’s investigation, based on forensic evidence — DNA analysis of the remains of the suicide bomber, IP address tracking of the video released by the JeM claiming responsibility, examination of the battered vehicle that carried the explosives, among others — therefore makes a thorough claim on JeM’s and Pakistan’s role in the attack. The Pulwama attack was followed by the bombing of a “terror training centre” in Balakot in Pakistan by the Indian Air Force and retaliatory air strikes by Pakistan. These have resulted in a breakdown of diplomatic ties and deterioration of every aspect of relations between the countries. But the Pulwama investigation could present an opportunity for Pakistan to initiate meaningful changes in its approach towards cross-border terror, if indeed the Imran Khan-led government is keen on reforming its deep State.

For the Indian government, the charge sheet presents a case not just for detailing the dastardly role of Pakistan and its proxy actors in Kashmir, but to re-evaluate its strategy. The involvement of a local Kashmiri youth in the attack as a suicide bomber, years after militancy had waned in the Valley, was also a warning about the alienation setting into the Valley. The hollowing out of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the bifurcation of the State and the demotion of J&K as a Union Territory ; the detention of scores of political leaders including mainstream actors; and the continuing restrictions on access to broadband Internet have deepened the alienation. The prevention of terror attacks will entail not only security and diplomatic measures to isolate and destroy terror outfits such as the JeM, but also addressing the roots of alienation that contribute recruits to the cause of terrorism.

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