The seemingly impregnable Pathankot air base’s security is riddled with gaping holes, it has emerged now, which may have given the group of terrorists a relatively easy entry into one of the biggest defence installations in the country.
Addressing a press conference at the air force base on Tuesday, union defence minister Manohar Parrikar admitted that there have been some “gaps” in security but the entire set of facts would be clear only after investigations.
However, it is not difficult to look for the gaps along the 24-km-long perimeter housing the air force station spread over 1,900 acres.
The entire perimeter is enclosed by a ten-foot wall with barbed wire on top. With pickets every half-a-km, the wall is lit up at night with hundreds of lights affixed on the wall.
The wall, near the main entry to the base, is abutting the residential area of Dhaki. The houses in this area are built in a manner that their walls are common with the boundary wall of the air force base.
At one point, where a house is under construction, the building materials have been stacked next to the air force station boundary wall and all it would take is a skip and hop to get across.
On one tract, the wall runs parallel to a nullah — water channel — which has outlets from the complex. These outlets are channelised from under the wall through pipes. But over the years the sand around the pipes has eroded and large holes have formed which are large enough for anyone to slip in.
While it is generally believed that the terrorists used such an inlet to enter the base, Mangal Singh Bajwa, a local resident said that these inlets have been converted into breeding grounds for pigs and generally the owners live close by. “If the terrorists entered the base through such an inlet, they would have been noticed,” he pointed out.
The lighting of the wall is also not foolproof, said Ashwani Sharma, BJP president of Dhaki ward who lives barely a hundred meter from the wall.
“There are many times when the lights go bust and are not repaired for months. We used to think that we are living next to an air force base and are safe, not realising that we are living in such an unsafe place which will be attacked by terrorists,” said Sharma.