The lone survivor of the Poonch ambush on Indian army soldiers, Shambhaji Kute of the 14 Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) , had apparently identified the attackers as “armed men wearing Pathani suits” on the morning of August 6.
The government and Opposition have declared a truce on the issue by blaming the Pakistan Army. The ambush took place on a dark, rainy night around 2 am in the heavily forested mountain area in the Poonch sector.
Deconstruction of the chain of events with principals in the South Block reveals that the first reports of the attack by the army and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) around 6:30-7am identified the attackers as “men wearing Pathani suits” without going into specifics.
Perhaps the attackers carried weapons with silencers as even the army became aware of the attack after the mixed patrol of 21 Bihar and 14 MLI reported missing in the Poonch sector in the morning.
This apparently becomes evident as one of the 21-Bihar victims bled to death with injuries only to his hand and feet. The army’s FIR in Poonch also talks only about terrorists.
While defence minister AK Antony, in his revised statement on the issue on Thursday, referred to the Mumbai attacks perpetrators and Pakistani terrorist training camps, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the normalization of Indo-Pak ties conditional on action against the 26/11 perpetrators and the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure, in a meeting with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s envoy Shahryar Khan last month.
“Prime Minister made it clear to Khan that sky was the limit for bilateral relations if Pakistan would take definitive action on these two fronts,” said a senior official.
It is understood that the PM let Antony address the Poonch ambush issue since Antony’s first statement was based on the Northern Army Command’s reports on August 6, which he revised the next day following a field report from army chief Gen Bikram Singh.
Top PMO officials — involved in planning Manmohan Singh forthcoming visit to Washington on the day of the attack - coordinated Antony’s revised statement on Thursday only after the Opposition accused him of giving the Pakistan army a clean chit on Wednesday.
While Antony, based on army inputs, blamed “20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons in Pakistan army uniform” and “specialist troops of Pakistan army” in the revised statement, the exact identity and number of the attackers remain unknown with cross-border intercepts silent.
However, given the heavy deployment of the Rawalpindi-based Xth Corps on the LoC, the attack had the green signal from the Pakistan army, top officials say.