New Delhi: Scaling up the offensive against the government over Pathankot terror attack, Congress on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fix responsibility for the "grave security lapse" and suggested that some heads must roll.
"They should realise that it has gone wrong and resignations should happen. If there is a lapse, resignations should happen," former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters at the AICC briefing when repeatedly asked whether Congress is demanding resignation of Home Minister Rajnath Singh or Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
"This government has totally failed. It has no system in place to protect the nation," he added.
AICC Communication Department chairman Randeep Surjewala also said that the prime minister should fix the responsibility and take action against the home and defence ministers.
"First responsibility is of the prime minister as he is the head of the government. Then defence minister and home minister are also responsible as they deal with the matter. The prime minister should act decisively and not merely talk.
"The prime minister should fix responsibility for this negligence and he reaches to the same conclusion that the nation has arrived at that there has been a huge lapse in the nation's security, he should then take action against the defence minister and the home minister," Surjewala said.
The party asked will the prime minister and the BJP government explain as to who is responsible for "grave security lapse" as terrorists managed to reach Pathankot Air Base despite advance intelligence alert and reporting of prior incident.
Accusing the government of having "totally failed" on the security front, the Congress leaders played video clips of Modi favouring a tough approach to deal with Pakistan and slamming UPA government's handling of Pakistan affairs before the Lok Sabha polls.
Wondering why the NDA goverment is "soft on Pakistan" over the Pathankot attack, the Congress leaders asked why the BJP government led by Modi was "shying away" from calling the Pathankot Air Base attackers as "Pakistani terrorists", more so when they were loaded with fire arms, explosives, clothes, shoes and logistic support from Pakistan with "handlers located in Pakistan" as reflected by telephone transcripts.
Surjewala and Shinde also wondered why the Modi government has not lodged a formal protest till date with Pakistan government, summoned their high commissioner and taken a decision to place the matter before international fora, so as to "expose and isolate Pakistan" as a state that
is "abetting and permitting its soil to be used for anti-India terror activities".
Taking a swipe at the prime minister, Shinde said Modi used to say that UPA ministers were serving biryani to Pakistani leaders but what is happening now.
"He (Modi) himself went to meet Nawaz Sharif and after that Pathankot happened," Shinde said.
Shinde said if this government continued like this, "then it looks like we may lose our country to terrorists."
He referred to the strong remarks of Modi after the Mumbai terror strikes.
"In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi bitterly criticised Congress-led UPA by mocking us saying stop writing love letters to Pakistan and give Pakistan an answer in the language it understands. In fact Modi held a press conference in Mumbai amidst the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and criticised the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"One of the principal electoral rhetoric of Modi always was that there has been enough of attacks on the border and it is time for Modi government now (bahut hua seema par waar; Abki baar Modi sarkaar). We have seen Modi ji's view on 26/11 attacks. We have seen what were his demands at that time. We hope that he introspects about what he had said in Mumbai," he said.
Shinde said there has been a "rise" in the incidents of terror attacks since the NDA came to power.
"Four major attacks have happened during NDA between 1999 and 2004. During NDA-I, there were hijackings, attacks on Red Fort, J&K Assembly and Parliament. Whenever BJP comes to power, terrorism increases.
"In 1999, IC 184 hijack happened.The then foreign minister accompanied the terrorists to Kandahar and released them. Since 1999, there is a belief that India has no strength. Terrorists think they can do anything and they will be released," Shinde said.
Alleging that timely action was not taken in the Pathankot attack, Shinde said that till coordination is not in place, such attacks cannot be handled. "Pathankot is a sensitive area. When you received intelligence, you should have shut down all movements from airbase," he said.
"We can be friends with Pakistan, but we will not tolerate any terrorist attacks. What did Modi ji discuss in Pakistan? We are in dark about what they discussed.
"Why did it take Pakistani PM Shri Nawaz Sharif five days to call Indian prime minister despite overwhelming evidence about citizenship identity, origin and handling of Pathankot Air Base attackers from Pakistan?" he asked.
The former home minister also rued that BJP had raked up his "Hindu terror" remark in Parliament and said that there was a rise in terror incidents after that and wondered if that was the case why a number of terror incidents happened during the earlier rule of NDA.
Posing a number of questions to the government, Shinde asked, "Why did Prime Minister Modi or his home or defence minister not take control of the entire Pathankot operation putting a clear-cut "command and control structure" on the ground to lead the operation?
"Why was Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) not called immediately by the prime minister? Why were home and defence ministers fumbling and deleting tweets about Pathankot operation after being contradicted by the home secretary? Does it show a definite lack of coordination in the Union
Cabinet even in tackling an issue as serious as terrorism?"
In a statement, the party said that last 19 months of Modi government has seen 900 ceasefire violations on Indo-Pak Border with 19 jawans and 34 civilians having lost their lives.
"Even Border Security Force (BSF) has admitted that there have been 35 percent hike in infiltrations from Pakistan in last one year. There have been three major terrorist attacks from Pakistan in last six months, two in Punjab and one in Jammu and Kashmir including in Dinanagar, Gurdaspur, Punjab, attack on a BSF convoy in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir and the attack on the Pathankot Air Base in Punjab.
"Six days after Modi’s sudden visit to Pakistan to greet Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday on 25 December, 2015, a handful of Pakistani terrorists have dealt a severe blow to India’s national security establishment and counter terror strategy," Congress said.
Calling it an attack on India’s sovereignty, honour and integrity, Shinde said it reflects a "clear-cut failure" of political leadership of Modi as also the command and control structure to fight terrorism.
Noting that Pathankot has India’s biggest Army cantonment housing two infantry divisions and two armored brigades, comprising nearly 50,000 Army troops, the party said the moot question is as to why were these troops stationed near Pathankot Air Base not used by the government to cordon off the Air Base as there was prior intelligence input after Gurdaspur SP was stopped by terrorists in Army fatigues.
"In reply, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar chose to shift blame by saying Army cannot do civil duty…….. The area is so complicated and had a difficult terrain and blocking roads is not Army’s responsibility.
"Is the defence minister then blaming the Union Home Minister and Punjab Police for letting the terrorists infiltrate and enter the Air Base?," he asked.
The Congress leaders also faulted the SAD-BJP government in Punjab over the episode asking "why couldn’t it act on intelligence and operational input that it received at 3:34 am on the night intervening 31 December and 1 January?"
The Congress leaders said, "one is forced to wonder whether it is drug-linked terror and whether infiltrating terrorists used the same route, modus operandi and logistic support that drug traffickers use in active connivance with people in the administration of Punjab."