Statement by the NIA chief that the Pakistan establishment was not behind the Pathankot attack came as quite a surprise. While it is now being said in some quarters that the NIA chief was misquoted, let us understand that the Jaish-e-Mohammad can never operate without the blessings of the Pakistan establishment.
For Pakistan the Jaish-e-Mohammad has always been the good jihadi group. In fact after the horrific Peshawar school attack, terror groups were unofficially categorised as good and bad jihadis.
While groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban fell under the category of the good jihadis, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayiba were classified under the good jihadi group.
Pathankot was a reward for Jaish-e-Mohammad:
An Pathankot like attack could not have taken place without the blessings of the Pakistan establishment (ISI and military).
A report by the International Crisis Group states that the background and the aftermath of the Pathankot attack symbolises the impunity accorded to the good jihadists. The report further mentions that the likely motive behind the attack was to most possibly derail the peace process between the two countries.
Terror groups tend to get edgy in Pakistan when they do not carry out a major strike. When the Lashkar-e-Tayiba was getting edgy, the 26/11 Mumbai attack was planned. This helped keep the group united.
The Jaish-e-Mohammad too was on the downside and in order to boost its morale, the Pathankot attack was allowed by the establishment as a reward for being the good jihadist group.
Proximity with the establishment.
For Pakistan after the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, it is the Jaish-e-Mohammad which is most important. There are a host of events that have taken place in the past which would clearly indicate the relationship shared by the group's head, Maulana Masood Azhar and the Pakistan establishment.
It was the ISI which approved of a Khandahar hijack to ensure the release of Azhar who was arrested in India.
When India protested, the then president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharaff assured that he would be arrested once he landed in Pakistan. However, upon his return, he was not arrested, but allowed to address a gathering of 10,000 people in which he said the only intention should be to destroy India and America.
This meeting led to the formation of the Jaish-e-Mohammad which a year later carried out the Parliament attack.
A couple of years later, the Jaish made an attempt to kill Musharaff. While a few persons were arrested, the establishment never too action against the top brass of the outfit.
The big question is would two lowly operatives of the Jaish-e-Mohammad plotted an attack on the President of Pakistan without the blessings of Maulana Azhar? This would summarise the proximity the Jaish has with the establishment.