Protests by Indian opposition parties outside the Pathankot airbase cut short Tuesday's visit of Pakistani investigators in connection with the ongoing probe into the January 2 terror attack at the military installation.
The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) accompanied by Indian officials had arrived at the Indian Air Force (IAF) base but was not allowed inside. The team was taken to the rear of the airbase as workers of Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held protests outside against its visit.
Pathankot attack probe: Pakistan, Indian investigators start formal deliberations
Officials said the JIT visited “sanitised areas” where the attackers had sneaked into the base, leading to the over 80-hour siege that left four terrorists and seven security personnel dead.
The investigators also visited the spot where an Indian police officer and his cook were said to have been dumped after being kidnapped by the attackers just before they entered the airbase.
This is the first time New Delhi has allowed Pakistani officers to investigate a terror attack in India.
Earlier, the five-member Pakistani team led by Punjab’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) chief Tahir Rai landed at Sri Guru Ramdas International Airport in Amritsar and left for Pathankot by road amid tight security.
The Pakistani team also includes Intelligence Bureau Lahore Deputy Director-General Azim Arshad, Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) Lt Col Tanvir Ahmed, Military Intelligence’s Lt Col Irfan Mirza and Gujranwala CTD’s Shahid Tanveer.
No facilitation of Pathankot probe by Pakistani team: Indian defence minister
Indian Punjab Police escorted the convoy of the Pakistani investigators, who along with India’s National Investigation Agency took stock of the probe into the terror attack, officials said.
Police officials said areas around the IAF facility have been diligently barricaded. “The district police have been informed about the visit and deployments have been done accordingly,” a senior official said.
A large contingent was deployed in and around Dhangu village, where the IAF base is located. But activists of the Indian Congress – Punjab’s main opposition party – held a protest near a road which was to be taken by the Pakistani probe team.
The protesters carrying black flags and banners slammed the visit of the Pakistani investigators.
The opposition parties have said that “unfettered access” given to the JIT by according an almost “red-carpet welcome” raised serious questions.
On the other hand, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah defended the government’s decision to allow the Pakistanis to come to India.
He said for the first time Pakistan was “showing seriousness” in investigating a terror attack on India.
Pakistan-based JIT arrives in New Delhi to probe Pathankot attack
Shah said this at a function hosted by the Kolkata Press Club in West Bengal, where he is campaigning for provincial elections.
The BJP leader’s comments suggest the government has not deviated from its course of normalisation of relations with Pakistan despite terror-related incidents.
But the government has also made it clear the Pakistani team will only have “restricted” access to the airbase with the NIA taking them to selected areas.
Orange-and blue-coloured tarpaulins were seen draping the interiors of the strategic facility in an apparent indication of visual prohibitions.
“First let me make clear one thing; the Pakistani team which has come has a limited access to periphery. They will not enter the airbase nor will they interact with army officials. They will investigate other things,” Shah said at the function. “The results will be known once the investigation is over.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2016.