Widespread confusion over the exact number of militants holed up inside the Pathankot airbase, poor coordination between multiple agencies and little pre-emptive action despite credible intelligence in advance have triggered serious questions about the lessons learnt from a spate of recent terror attacks.
Over 24 hours after the gunbattle began, Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and Air Marshal Anil Khosla confirmed four terrorists had been killed and two more engaged on Sunday — going back on official announcements a day before that said all five terrorists had been neutralised. The officials even refused to give out the number of militants who infiltrated the base, saying the figure was at least six.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday tweeted security forces neutralised ‘five’ terrorists and ‘saluted’ the security forces on a ‘successful’ operation in Pathankot. But as fresh explosions rocked the air base and forces stumbling on ‘two’ more terrorists, the home minister — who oversees the vast internal security infrastructure of the country — deleted the tweet.
The death of an elite National Security Guard commando, Niranjan EK, while handling the body of a dead terrorist also indicated lapse in the standard operating procedure. The high death toll on the Indian side — seven — also raised questions.
“The NSG may definitely like to look into the incident and as per their standard operating procedure, an inquiry can be conducted into the incident,” said JN Chaudhuri, who retired as the NSG chief.
In addition, critics wondered why police investigators didn’t probe the terror angle in the snatching of an SP’s car early Friday morning despite receiving reports from the superintendent himself. The chaos and failure to neutralise all the attackers forced experts to say that more planning should have gone into the operation and that the security establishment’s institutional responses haven’t improved significantly, over seven years after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.