Visitors were shown students reciting verses from Quran at the madrassa situated near impact site

JABA: A madrassa, or Islamic school, on a remote hilltop in northeastern Pakistan that was the target of the Indian air strike just over six weeks ago is still not ready to give up its secrets.

For the first time since the Indian Air Force jets targeted a Jaish-e-Muhammed terrorist camp in Balakot, Pakistani authorities on Wednesday allowed a group of journalists working for foreign news organisations, and foreign diplomats based in Islamabad, access to the site.

According to BBC Urdu, the group was flown from Islamabad in a helicopter to Jabba in Balakot. The visitors trekked for about one-and-a-half hour to reach the madrassa on the top of a mountain surrounded by lush green trees.

The expectation among some of the visitors was that it might help settle a number of mysteries about the attack.

But the journalists and diplomats, most of whom spent well over an hour climbing steep slopes to get to the madrasa in the Jaba village area near the town of Balakot, didn’t get enough time to make any kind of informed assessment.

They were mostly restricted to looking around the madrassa’s main building. They were hurried away by the Pakistani army, which organised the trip, after less than half an hour. Those arriving by vehicle had even less time.

The interactions with teachers and about 100 children at the madrassa - from the very young to older teenagers - were also limited.

The visitors were shown a group of children learning passages from the Quran partly by rocking their heads back and forward in rhythm. One teacher said he had worked at the madrassa for six years.

Too little, Too Late

At least three of the diplomats, who were mainly from Western countries and the Middle East and included some military attaches, said it was very difficult to draw any firm conclusions because of the six-week delay in gaining access and the restricted time allowed to look around.

On the trek up to the compound, past small sheep and goat farms and through pastoral scenery on a beautiful spring day, journalists and diplomats were shown craters that the allegedly wayward missiles had created on the surrounding hillsides.

Tensions had flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based JeM killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a counter terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.