Opposition slams Centre over handling of Pathankot terror strike

Opposition dubbed the decision of handing over the operation to NSG as a critical mistake'.

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday came in for a scathing attack in Lok Sabha over the handling of the terror strike on the Pathankot air base, with the opposition dubbing the decision to handover the operation to NSG as a "critical mistake".

They also questioned as to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lahore stopover had achieved, noting that the terror strike had happened just a few days after that.

Participating in a discussion on the issue, BJD leader Kalikesh Singhdeo singled out the National Security Advisor for attack, saying he had "usurped" the decision-making powers to tackle the incident.

Singhdeo wondered as to why the Army was not asked to deal with the terror strike as 50,000 troops were available in Pathankot itself and they were the best to tackle such situations.

Wondering how the Defence and the Home Ministries could wash their hands off, he said the National Security Guards (NSG) is used only to tackle urban hostage situations and not for counter-terrorism and added it was "a critical mistake" to hand over the operation to the NSG.

He also pointed out that when the NSG was deployed to deal with the situation, it did not have night-vision devices.

Making a strong pitch for shoring up the intelligence mechanism, he said this was the need of the hour given the fact that the country has remained "one step behind terrorists".

Expressing concern that Maulana Masood Azhar was still roaming free in Pakistan, he said this was in spite of the fact that the involvement of his organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed in the terror strike. "Are we not bringing enough pressure on Pakistan", he asked.

On Prime Minister's Lahore stopover, Singhdeo wondered as to what cost the gestures of celebrating a birthday and having a cup of tea and having dinner in the present context of Indo-Pak ties.

Lashing out at the government over its handling of Pathankot terror attack and its overall Pakistan policy, the Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said while there was no coordination between Defence and Home Ministries, the Cabinet Committee on Security had no meeting on the situation. It was more a "show off" and less effective, he said.

Scindia said the government cannot tread the path of walking alone (ekla chalo) without taking the Opposition into confidence in such critical moments.

"There is difference in what the government says and what it does," he said.

When the government knew about the presence of terrorists 48 hours before they struck, why were they allowed to roam for such a long time, he asked.

"There was army of 20,000 infantry in Gurdaspur, the air force, the NSG and the BSF. Still there was no single point of contact.”

"This was not the first time that a terrorist attack took place. Few months back a similar attack took place at Dina Nagar in Gurdaspur. Why were lessons not learnt from it? Why was the security not strengthened," Scindia said.

Attacking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Home Minister Rajnath Singh over the Pathankot incident, the chief whip of the Congress said there was no coordination between the ministries.

"When the Pathankot attack was taking place, the Prime Minister was in Karnataka, attending a Yoga event and tweeting about it.”

"The Home Minister tweeted saying we have killed the terrorists, while the Home Secretary said the operation was still on. And then the tweets had to be deleted. The Defence Minister was in Goa attending addressing a conclave of party workers," he said.

"Why did a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security not take place," Scindia asked.

The Congress leader also said that the country's foreign policy "cannot be based on personalities especially in regard to Pakistan and when you know it has different power centres...the army, the civilian government. It should be consultative, strategic, process driven and result oriented."

Questioning government's policy towards Pakistan, he asked, "Is it giving a strong reply or is it a handshake policy."

"The dialogue with the Opposition is important. You cannot resort to a policy of going alone. It will take you nowhere," Scindia said.

He said when the attacks were on, the Defence Minister was making "immature" statements. "The Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and Home Minister cannot work in silos," the Congress leader said.

He said whenever the BJP has come to power, the country has witnessed terror attacks and questioned its Pakistan policy. He also referred to the Kargil conflict when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power and said now the country has witnessed the Pathankot attack during Narendra Modi's tenure.

"By going to Pakistan for a cup of tea, the Prime Minister has wasted six years of efforts of the UPA government to isolate Pakistan," Scindia said.

He said although the government was talking about the Pakistan taking steps after Pathankot attacks, the FIR registered by them has no reference to Jaish-e-Mohammad or Hafiz Saeed.

Scindia also attacked the central government for sending a bill of Rs 6.35 crore to Punjab, "coincidentally" after the Pathankot attacks.

He also took a jibe at the government saying when Indian soldiers and farmers are dying, the government is talking about nationalism.

While the members were in favour of continuation of talks with Pakistan, they also wanted the government to spell out its Pakistan policy.

Mohd Salim (CPI-M) said that in the interest of bettering cooperation, it is necessary for dialogues should continue.

"I urge the Home Minister not to depend on information from fake twitter accounts, whether it is in case of JNU or in case of Pathankot.... The bravado which you should have shown in Pathankot, you are showing it in JNU," Salim said.

Sougata Roy (TMC) said the NDA government's "flip-flop" in Pakistan policy is weakening the country's defence policy and the attack on Pathankot airbase brings into open the weak underbelly and chinks in armour.

He said the government did not communicate with states when the Pathankot attack happened and failed to win the perception battle as it did not give out correct information.

Chandrakant Khaire (Shiv Sena) said that Pakistan always looks at India as "kafir" and there should be no friendship with the neighbouring nation. "We will not allow India-Pakistan match to happen. When our Prime Minister made a visit to Pakistan, immediately thereafter, there is terrorist activity. Earlier also this had happened... We should fight Pakistan," Khaire said.

K Kavitha (TRS) sought to know from Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar whether "security gaps" which came to fore following the Pathankot attack have been filled.

She also sought to know how many meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security took place after the Pathankot attack and also whether there was any shortfall of personnel in the Intelligence Bureau.

Varaprasad Rao (YSRC) said there was a need for unity in the House and people should refrain from making any provocative statement. "We should continue with the peace talks" and strengthen internal intelligence, he said.

Dharmendra Yadav (SP) also attacked the government saying it would have been better if the energy and spirit it spent in dealing with JNU incident, was spent on the international borders. "Discussions with Pakistan should continue, but along with that we should frame such policies so that the morale of soldiers increases," he said.

Ashwini Kumar (BJP) suggested that the government should revoke Article 370 of Indian Constitution.

N K Premchandran (RSP) said that the Pathankot attack revealed the intelligence and communication lapses. "The BJP government had earlier said that terror and talks cannot go together. Now what is the current Pakistan policy of the government," he said.

Dushyant Chautala (Indian National Lok Dal) said his party would support the government if it considered revoking Article 370.

( Source : PTI )
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