Even as the combing operations after the Pathankot terror attack reach the final stage, there are several questions which still need to be answered and loopholes which turn this attack and the probe following it into a convoluted mess.
Here are some of the key aspects of the Pathankot terror attack and the error-strewn investigation that followed:
Gurdaspur SP's account
The discrepancies in the account of Salwinder Singh, the Gurdaspur superintendent of police (SP) who was allegedly kidnapped by the terrorists, have now led to the National Investigative Agency (NIA) planning to subject him to a polygraph test, reported The Times of India.
The report further said that the NIA is also investigating why the SP had a blue beacon on top of his private vehicle when, in fact, it is illegal to do that. There are suspicions that the beacon helped the terrorists get past police checkpoints on New Year's Eve.
A report in The Indian Express stated that the SP had said that he had been kidnapped by five terrorists. But Rajesh Verma, the SP's friend who had been allegedly kidnapped along with the SP, said that the number of terrorists was four.
The report added that while the SP had said that he left a temple at Talur village at 11 pm on 31 December, Som Raj, the caretaker of the shrine, had said that the SP, along with Verma and Madan Gopal (Som Raj's uncle), came to the temple at 9 pm and left at 9.30 pm.
Salwinder Singh is facing charges of alleged breach of discipline and was transferred recently as assistant commandant of 75th battalion of the Punjab Armed Police.
MES employee detained
The Gurdaspur SP is not the only one with suspicious activity linked to him. According to another Indian Express report, an employee of the Army's Military and Engineering Services (MES) has been detained on suspicion that he may have helped terrorists infiltrate the air force base.
The employee was detained after it was found that three of the floodlights in the stretch of an 11-foot-high wall that was breached, had been turned upward and directed away from the wall, which drowned the area in darkness.
Warning from intel agencies ignored?
Even though there have been questions raised on the intelligence agencies themselves, an article in The Hindu points out how the fault might have actually lied with the defence and police personnel deployed in the area.
The article said that media reports had established that both the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Punjab State intelligence had sent out a warning five days ahead of the terrorist attack that "there was a huge threat to installations on the border with Pakistan."
Despite this warning, the security personnel in the area probably failed to deploy security arrangements at every possible area at the Pathankot air base to avoid the attack.
The article also noted how it was difficult to arrive at a conclusion about the amount and quality of intelligence provided to security forces, and therefore, difficult to point fingers at the intelligence agencies because "no police force anywhere in the world concedes that it had received specific intelligence on a possible attack. Even when it admits otherwise, it has a tendency to complain that whatever was given to it was not specific enough to thwart mischief."
Confusion over number of terrorists
The fact that confusion still exists among security forces over the number of terrorists involved in the attack points out the level of confusion that the security personnel had.
According to an Indian Express report, four bodies of terrorists had been handed over. However, only four assault rifles, four pistols and four standard kits of the terrorists had been recovered.
But if the number of terrorists killed in the attack was six, the number of items recovered should have been in groups of six instead of four. "It is possible that two more bodies were blown to pieces, as the Airmen’s Mess disintegrated...and we have sent forensic samples for examination. The thing is, we would have expected to find their weapons in the debris, and nothing’s surfaced," the report quoted an intelligence officer familiar with the case as saying.
No clarity over who was in charge
Sources told The Times of India that there was confusion over who should be leading the offensive after the attack. The report said that while the army was under the impression that it was a Brigadier-rank officer in-charge of the operation, they were taken aback "when IG (Ops) of the NSG, an Army Major General, arrived as the head of the commandos trained for counter-terrorism operations."
Bickering among politicians
We can almost be sure these that the bickering among politicians, even at a time of crisis like the Pathankot attack, will continue.
"Neither the ruling BJP nor the opposition parties in general came out glowing. There were no signs of the broad consensus that once characterised Indian foreign policy. The Pakistani army establishment must be congratulating itself at setting the two principal parties at each other’s throat even while the anti-terror operation was going on," said an article in DNA.
While Congress President Sonia Gandhi had termed the internal security situation as "serious", Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken had gone hammer and tongs against the government alleging that institutional mechanism stands "demolished" and the government is "in dark".
At a time when the country was suffering from a frightening terror attack, maybe the politicians could have kept the blame games for a later time.
With inputs from agencies
First Published On : Jan 8, 2016 12:45 IST