“Something is seriously wrong with the country’s counter- terror security establishment.” These were the scathing observations on Tuesday of the Parliamentary Standing Committee which discussed the Pathankot terror attack, which took place on 2 January.
The panel criticised the home ministry, pointing out the flaws in the security arrangement of the ‘most secure airbase’ in the country. According to an NDTV report, the panel said that despite fencing, floodlights and patrolling by the BSF personnel along the border, the terrorists were able to sneak in. “Pathankot airbase’s security cover was not robust and had a poorly guarded perimeter wall,” the panel is further reported to have observed. They also recommended that the airbase be kept out of bounds for the public.
Six terrorists had attacked the Pathankot airbase in early January. The operation lasted three days and seven military personnel were killed.
The committee said it is constrained to note that despite concrete and credible intelligence inputs received from abducted and released SP of Pathankot and through interception of communication between terrorists and their handlers by the terrorists disclosing that they were planning an attack on a defence establishment, the security agencies were so ill-prepared to anticipate threats in time and counter them swiftly and decisively, reported PTI.
According to a report by the DNA, Pradip Bhattacharya, the Chairman of the Standing Committee said security agencies were ill-prepared to counter the terrorist attack in time.
Bhattacharya noted that the militants could reach the airbase despite terror alerts being sounded well in advance. He accused security agencies of not being adequately prepared to anticipate and counter the threats.
The DNA report quotes Bhattacharya as saying that there continue to be unsafe conditions at the strategically important Pathankot airbase.
The committee had interacted with the officers posted at the Indian Air Force Base, could not state how Pakistan-based terrorists managed to sneak inside the IAF base.
The panel said there cannot be two opinion on the fact that Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group was behind this ghastly attack which was established through interception of calls between terrorists and their handlers based in Pakistan, thanks to their use of robbed mobile phones from Pathankot SP and his friend.
Besides, weapons, ammunition and many items found in the possession of killed terrorists are also said to be having ‘Made in Pakistan’ marking.
“In view of the ease with which the terrorists sneaked into our side from Pakistan, the Committee understands that the attack cannot take place without active support from the security and intelligence agencies of Pakistan as four armed men cannot easily pass through heavy Pakistani defence establishment situated near border area,” it said.
“The Committee understands that in this attack, the role of Punjab Police is also very questionable and suspicious as even after abduction of Punjab Police SP, the Punjab Police took long time in arriving at the conclusion that their abduction was not just a criminal robbery but it was going to be serious national security threat,” it noted.
The panel said it failed to understand why the terrorists let the SP and his friend off, which should be thoroughly examined by National Investigation Agency.
“Besides, the Committee is of the view that the role of narco-syndicate active in border areas of Punjab should also be investigated as the terrorists might have taken help of channels or networks used by smugglers to infiltrate the border, shelter and carry out terror attack,” it said.
The committee recommended that in view of the serious attacks from across the international border in the area, the government should pay attention to effectively sealing the border through enhanced patrolling, fencing, flood lighting
“The Committee recommends that the Pathankot airbase which is very close to border should be declared high security zone and should be properly secured through round-the-clock patrolling and making it out-of-bounds for general people residing around the airbase,” it said.
The panel noted that the submission of the Home Ministry that the NIA is handling the investigation of this case and terrorists belonged to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, led by Maulana Masood Azhar, were found to be behind the attack but the Committee would like to be apprised what made the government of India to seek help of Pakistan into probe of this terror attack and invite a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from Pakistan to India.
A five-member JIT from Pakistan had visited India in March, to review and collect physical evidence. They had also interviewed key witnesses through the NIA.
But in April, the JIT claimed that India had staged the Pathankot attack and hence denied NIA permission to enter Pakistan and carry out their investigations.
With inputs from PTI