A parliamentary panel rapped the government on Tuesday over its handling of the Pathankot airbase attack, saying it showed something was “seriously wrong” in the country’s counter-terror security establishment.
It also questioned the government’s decision to allow a visit by a Pakistani investigation team to India and termed the role of Punjab police “very questionable and suspicious”.
The standing committee said in its report tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that Punjab police took a long time in arriving at the conclusion that the abduction of its SP-rank officer Salwinder Singh and two of his associates was “not just criminal robbery but a serious national security threat”.
“The committee is also unable to understand why the terrorists let the SP and his friend off, which should be thoroughly examined by NIA,” the report said.
The panel expressed suspicion that the attackers might have taken help from channels and networks used by narcotic syndicates active in the area and said that aspect should be investigated.
Four attackers, who allegedly came from Pakistan, had abducted Salwinder Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma and orderly Madan Gopal on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 and launched the attack the next night.
The abductors allegedly snatched the phones of Singh and Verma and spoke to their Pakistani handlers using those.
The panel said despite concrete and credible intelligence received from the abducted and released SP of Pathankot and his friend and through interception of communication between terrorists and their handlers, the security agencies were ill-prepared to anticipate the threat and counter it decisively.
“(It) feels that something is seriously wrong with our counter-terror security establishment,” the report said.
The panel said it failed to understand why in spite of a terror alert sounded well in advance, the terrorists managed to breach the high-security airbase. The panel, which visited the airbase after the attack, found there were no roads around its perimeter wall which was poorly guarded.
There was heavy growth of shrubs and trees on the premises which helped the terrorists hide and made it difficult for security forces to flush them out.
“The committee during its visit found that the airbase’s security cover was not robust,” the report said.
The panel said it “would like to be apprised” of what made the government seek Pakistan’s help in the probe and invite a team from there to visit India.