Pak JIT reaches airbase; Cong, AAP stage protest
A five-member Pakistani probe team, including an ISI official, on Tuesday visited the strategic Indian Air Force (IAF) base here that was for most part visually barricaded. Scores of Congress and Aam Aadmi party (AAP) workers staged protests outside the airbase, shouting slogans against the Pakistani JIT’s probe into the January 2 terror attack.
Top National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials briefed the team about the attack, in which seven security personnel were killed. At least four terrorists believed to be from Pak-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) were also killed by security forces in the attack.
The team that arrived in Amritsar in the morning from Delhi in a special plane was taken to Pathankot by road to avoid giving it an aerial view of the strategic base. The 118 km journey was covered by the team, which was ferried in six bullet proof vehicles.
It is for the first time that that a Pakistani team has visited India to ‘probe’ a terror case and has been given access to a strategic installation amidst strong criticism from opposition parties. Most of the base was completely covered with curtains to prevent a view of the defence assets.
Congress and AAP have accused the government of giving unfettered access to the Pakistan probe team that also dilutes India’s stand that terrorism is sponsored from across the border.
The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) entered the base through a specially-created entrance at the perimeter wall, which was breached by the terrorists on the fateful night.
In the airbase, the NIA officers showed them the ‘scene of crime’ which was witness to an 80-hour-long gunbattle from the intervening night of January 1 and 2. The team was also taken to other places relevant to the case, including the Unjh river, from where the terrorists had crossed over into the town.
Away from media glare, NIA team led by Inspector General of Police Sanjiv Singh briefed them about the investigations carried out so far in the case.
The JIT members entered the airbase from the rear after their convoy stopped at ‘Upper Doaba’ canal after a travel in a mini bus through the dirt tracks next to the water body.
The team, officials said, was taken to only the “scene of crime” where the encounter occurred between the security men and terrorists and the entire process was videographed and photographed by two IAF personnel.
The Pakistani JIT is led by Punjab’s Additional Inspector General of Police, Counter Terrorism Department, Muhammad Tahir Rai and also includes ISI’s Lt Col Tanvir Ahmed.
The Defence Ministry had earlier declined permission for landing of the special aircraft carrying the JIT members at Pathankot airbase.
Amid reports that terrorists may target the team in Pathankot, the Punjab Police had deployed its SWAT commondoes. Adequate police presence ensured that none of the political parties could block the way of the team.
Waving black flags and placards, scores of Congress and AAP workers stood outside the airbase, protesting against the Pak JIT visit. They accused the BJP government of hurting the sentiments of the people of the country by allowing the Pakistan team to probe terror attack on Indian soil.
The team was taken from the air base to Koliyan village area where Punjab Police SP Salwinder Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma and cook Madan Gopal were abducted by the terrorist in their blue beacon SUV.
Salwinder had claimed that he and his friend along with an cook were coming back after paying obeisance at Panj Peer Dargah falling in Narot Jaimal Singh area.
They were also taken to Gulpur village, where the SP and his cook were dumped by terrorists. Then, the team was taken to Tajpur village where finally the SUV in which Rajesh in injured condition was found.
The team also visited ‘Kathlor ka pul’ where driver Ikagar was killed besides ‘Narot Jaimal Singh’ where Salwinder’s vehicle was abandoned. The team also went to the Unjhh river bridge in Bamial near border from where the terrorists are supposed to have crossed over the border.
The team could not go to the forward post in Bamial as the BSF had reservations over that keeping in view the strategic importance and presence of underground bunkers in that area.
The JIT-NIA team spent about four hours in Pathankot after which they left for Amritsar.
AAP leaders join pathankot stir
AAP’s Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra, who arrived here with his supporters, protested against the visit. He said allowing Pakistani JIT to visit the airbase was “shameful and disgusting”.
“For the first time in 35 years, we are saying that ISI was not supporting terrorism... the same people who have killed our people have come here...this is so shameful and disgusting,” Mishra said.
“This is an insult of our mother India. We will not let Modi government to do this,” he said.
“Modi has shown his real face. We do not want killers to be allowed to probe the matter. We will not tolerate this and that is why AAP is holding protest here,” said AAP leader Sanjay Singh, who is party incharge for Punjab affairs. “It is an insult to Indians and martyrs,” he said.