Pathankot: A story of valiant men and organisational failures3 min read
Her voice shrill, her tone tense, she sat with the phone pressed to her ears listening intently to her mother describing her day. A fellow classmate in Manipal, Sunaina (name changed), has been worried about her dad who is in the Air Force since the horrific turn of events in Pathankot. “Whenever there is an attack, security is beefed up and security drills accentuate to test the preparedness of the multiple army cantonments and air bases across the country” she said.
Nothing though could stop the brutality that transpired in the wee hours of 2nd January as a heavily armed group of militants, believed to be from the Pakistani bred Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, attacked the Pathankot Air Force station leading to a fierce gun battle and later subsequent combing operations that lasted for seventeen long hours. While all the six attackers involved were shot dead, seven security personnel succumbed in what is now known to be, the second major terror incursion to take place in Punjab’s Gurdaspur-Pathankot belt in the last six months.
Since, reruns of the harrowing incident kept on flashing on our screens, and heated debates and discussions continued to prevail on every medium both offline and online. The whole Modi-Sharif hug rhetoric and the numerous Indo-Pak Peace conventions now seemed more and more futile; with the neighboring nation facing flak for not putting a heavy foot forward. As Pakistan remained a safe haven for home grown terror outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammed, any minimalistic hopes or expectations trickled down the drain.
Amidst all of this, it suddenly seemed that the nation had finally woken out of a self-ordained slumber when a joint statement promising full cooperation in probing the Pathankot attack was issued which came as an unforeseen response by the Pakistani Civilian leadership and the military ISI complex. A joint position was formulated at a meeting on January 8, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, DG Military Operations, National Security Advisor, and Minister for Interior and Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs.
Although, as the dust began to settle on the Pathankot incident, we began to notice the inadequacy of the statement as the alleged probe hardly garnered any response. Even though several arrests were made by the Pakistani authorities amongst senior members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, they were let off later. Also the charges on which these members were brought in had nothing to do with the Pathankot carnage. The most staggering display of this inefficiency being Masood Azhar, who was simply put in protective detention with his location shrouded in secrecy, allegedly for his own safety.
But if there was something more frightening than the aforementioned reality, then it was the humongous botch up, that was to be the rescue and combing operation that finally led to the end of the 6 perpetrators. Inherently, first among the many things to go wrong was the inclusion of a slew of military and paramilitary forces: Punjab Police, Defense Security Corps, Indian Army, Indian Air Force, National Security Guard, and Garud Commando Force which resulted in a chaotic concussion of organizational failure. Furthermore the fact that, security at one of the country’s most strategic air force bases was lax to such an extent that not only could the terrorists infiltrate the base, but kept on engaging military personnel for 17 hours straight, goes on to prove the harrowing discrepancies that were prevalent in the air base.
Also, the inescapable fact that security was not given primary importance even after the terror strike which rocked Gurdaspur, located less than a hundred kilometer away from Pathankot and the entire Gurdaspur-Pathankot belt bearing a close proximity to the border, makes it abundantly clear that this case stems to be a nemesis of neglect.
Rounak Bose a Reporter at The Manipal Journal. All views are personal.