Pathankot probe: why was Pakistan's help sought, asks House panel
Questioning the decision to invite Pakistani investigators to Pathankot, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has said it should be apprised about "what made the Government of India to seek the help of Pakistan for investigation into this terror attack".
In its report to the Parliament Tuesday, the 30-member committee accused the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad of masterminding the attack, "with active support" from Pakistan's security and intelligence agencies.
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The report noted that something "is seriously wrong with our counter-terror security establishment". Criticising the security agencies for their handling of the attack, the panel pointed out that despite concrete intelligence, they were "ill-prepared" to anticipate threats and counter them.
"The committee is constrained to note that despite concrete and credible intelligence inputs received from the abducted Pathankot Superintendent of Police and his friend, and through interception of communication between terrorists and their handlers revealing the terrorists disclosing that they were planning an attack on a defence establishment, the security agencies of our country were so ill-prepared to anticipate threats in time and counter them swiftly and decisively," the report stated.
On 2 January 2016, a group of heavily armed men, allegedly sent by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, attacked the Pathankot airbase, killing seven security personnel. The operation to flush the attackers out lasted two days.
Afterwards, the Narendra Modi government agreed to Pakistan's request to allow its investigators visit the airbase, inviting severe criticism for "playing into Pakistan's hands" and, as a result, messing up the probe.
The report said the parliamentary committee had visited the airbase and found that its security was not robust enough as it had a "poorly guarded perimeter wall". "Despite the fencing, floodlighting and patrolling by BSF personnel, Pakistani terrorists managed to sneak into India from across the border," the report pointed out.
The committee, headed by the Congress' Pradip Bhattacharya, also raised suspicion about the role of Punjab Police, questioning why even after the kidnapping of an SP, it took the force such a long time to conclude that the "abduction was not just a criminal robbery but a serious national security threat". The committee suggested that the "narco syndicate" active in the border areas of Punjab should be investigated as this network could have helped the terrorists sneak in across the border.
The panel recommended that considering its proximity to the border, the Pathankot air base should be declared a high security zone with round the clock patrolling, and kept out of bounds for the public. It also asked the government to effectively seal the "border through enhanced patrolling, fencing, flood lighting, etc."
Pointing out that security infrastructure alone won't prevent terrorist attacks, the panel asked the government to strengthen "proper intelligence gathering, sharing of inputs between various security agencies in real time, which will help anticipate and launch counter terror operations". It hoped the security agencies will learn from the Pathankot attack to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
The committee requested the Modi government to take its report seriously as the Pathankot airbase was still unsafe.