Moeed Yusuf, special assistant to Imran Khan on national security and strategic policy planning, made the claim during an interview with journalist Karan Thapar for a news portal

An army soldier stands in the Army Public School which was attacked by Taliban gunmen, in Peshawar in 2014.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on national security has faced criticism within his country for claiming that India was linked to the 2014 terrorist assault on an army school in Peshawar, an attack for which the Taliban claimed responsibility.

Moeed Yusuf, special assistant to Khan on national security and strategic policy planning, made the claim during an interview with journalist Karan Thapar for the news portal The Wire. He alleged the mastermind of the assault from Jalalabad in Afghanistan was in touch with “handlers” at the Indian consulate in the same city as the attack was underway.

Yusuf also alleged that Indian intelligence had spent $1 million for the merger of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with four other militant groups and that India was funnelling money to Baloch activists through think tanks in Afghanistan. However, he offered no evidence to back these claims.

Yusuf contended in a tweet that he had “exposed previously unrevealed information about regular Indian state sponsorship of terrorism against Pakistan”.

There was no response from Indian officials to Yusuf’s remarks.

The Pakistani premier’s aide received praise for the interview but there was considerable criticism for his remarks related to the 2014 attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar, which resulted in the death of 149 people, including more than 130 children, and forced the former government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif to draw up a National Action Plan to counter terror groups.

TTP, whose leader Mullah Fazlullah said it was in retaliation for Pakistan’s military operations in North Waziristan, claimed responsibility for it. Fazlullah, who was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan in 2018, had said in a video message at the time: ““We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females…we want them to feel the same pain.”

Former senator Farhatullah Babar, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) tweeted that Yusuf “saying that APS mastermind was in touch with an Indian consulate during attack is a tall claim”.

“Proof must be placed before world and Pakistani people. [Yusuf] must not be seen parroting intel narrative without proof. @YusufMoeed credibility at stake,” Babar added.

Civil society activist Marvi Sirmed, in a tweet, noted that Yusuf had said he has undeniable solid evidence about the school attack, including “verified tapes of 8 phone calls”, and questioned “why this was hidden from the people of Pakistan for so long?”

Several social media users from Peshawar, where the school attack continues to be an emotional issue, were critical of the claim that India was somehow linked to the terrorist incident.

They pointed out that they had been told by authorities for years that the Taliban and a former spokesman for the group, Ehsanullah Ehsan, were behind the school attack. They also noted that several local militants were sentenced to death by military courts for the attack.

In August 2015, then Pakistan Army chief Raheel Sharif had confirmed the death sentence given by military courts to seven members of TTP and Toheed-wal-Jihad group for supporting and collecting funds for the school attack. In February 2015, the Pakistan Army’s media arm had announced the arrest of TTP member Taj Mohammad, whom it described as one of the “main executors” of the school attack.

The convicted attackers were later hanged in November 2015 and April 2017.

Yusuf had also contended in the interview that India has sent messages with “a desire for conversation” but refused to give details. He also set conditions for a dialogue with India, including release of political prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir, making Kashmiris a party to talks, and ending restrictions in the region. Indian officials have not responded to these remarks either.

People familiar with developments in Islamabad said Yusuf’s move to do an interview with an Indian media outlet came after a go-ahead from the Pakistani military.