New Delhi: A Parliamentary panel has rapped the government for its failure to prevent the Pathankot terror attack, saying “something is seriously wrong” in the country’s counterterror establishment and the airbase’s security was not robust.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, in its 197th report, also observed that the role of the Punjab police is also very “questionable and suspicious” during the 2 January terror attack. The panel said it has failed to understand that in spite of terror alert sounded well in advance, how terrorists managed to breach the high-security airbase and subsequently carry out the strike.
The committee said it is constrained to note that despite concrete and credible intelligence inputs received from abducted and released superintendent of police (SP) of Pathankot and his friend 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.
The committee said it “feels that something is seriously wrong with our counterterror security establishment.” During its visit to the airbase, the panel found that there were no roads around the perimeter wall of the strategic airbase. There were growth of long shrubs and trees on the premises, which have helped terrorists in hiding and making difficult for security forces in flushing out the terrorists.
“The committee, during its visit, found that airbase’s security cover was not robust and it had a poorly guarded perimeter wall,” the report said. The panel said there cannot be two opinions 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 the Pathankot SP and his friend.
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 (NIA). “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 etc. “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 from Pakistan to India. A Pakistani Joint Investigation Team had visited India last month as part of its investigation into the case.