A committee will during its four-day visit to Kashmir Valley review the situation on borders and in the hinterland and meet top officials of various security forces. (Photo: PTI)
Srinagar: Terrorists have been hiding in villages close to the Pathankot airbase in Punjab and may carry out a second terror attack on the airbase.
This startling claim was made by a Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Home Affairs on Tuesday, sending alarming bells ringing in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. On January 2 this year, a heavily armed group of terrorists attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station, part of the Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force. Four attackers and two security forces personnel were killed in the initial battle, with an additional security force member dying from injuries hours later.
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The PSC on Home Affairs said that the government has been informed about the new development and security of the strategically important yet "vulnerable" facility has been beefed up further.
Before arriving in Srinagar from the winter capital on a four day visit, the members of the committee were in Jammu for three days. During this time they held a high level review of the situation prevailing along the International Border (IB) in Jammu sector with top officers of BSF, civil and police administration and also interacted with border dwellers.
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"After going back from Pathankot, we made our suggestions to the government and said that there can be further attacks on Pathankot. We were told by the villagers that some terrorists were still hiding in the villages there," Chairman of the committee P Bhattacharya told reporters in Jammu on Tuesday. He added that after the recommendation of the committee, the government has alerted the BSF, the CRPF and the Army and handed over the security of the airbase to them.
Bhattacharya said, "Do you know that a few days ago, government asked the CRPF, BSF and the Army to guard the air force station because some terrorists are hiding there? It is not my business to find out how, but as we got the information from the villagers and it was very clear to us that they are hiding somewhere. We have informed the Government of India about it."
When asked to comment on the permission granted by the Central government to the Pakistani investigation team to visit Pathankot airbase to probe the January 2 attack, he said he was not in favour of allowing Pakistani intelligence officers to visit the strategic facility. "The committee does not support the idea of bringing this intelligence branch of Pakistan here. What for?
"But for discussion of any foreign policy of the Government of India, we are not the proper forum, we cannot take the decision to do this and not to do this", he said adding the policy guidelines have to be framed by the Government in Delhi.
He also said that the committee conducted intensive tours of the India-Bangladesh border and India-Pakistan border and was now heading for Srinagar. "We went to Pathankot which is the most vulnerable area", he said.
Replying to questions, he said that the committee is satisfied with the measures being taken by the BSF to check infiltration but, at the same time, wanted fully modern equipment provided to the paramilitary force to cope with the challenges it faces on the borders. "As of now, they have explained to us the way they are trying to prevent infiltration. You cannot say what will happen today or tomorrow but up till now, it is all right," he said.
There are ten other members, both from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, on the PSC on Home Affairs. They are stationed in Jammu and Kashmir to review the entire situation prevailing on the borders. In Jammu, the committee visited Octroi forward post in RS Pura sector, Pittal in Arnia sector and Jakh in Samba sector during their day-long visit to IB. IG BSF, Jammu Frontiers, DK Upadhyaya, gave a detailed briefing to the PSC members at BSF Headquarters Paloura. Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Pawan Kotwal and IGP Jammu Danesh Rana also briefed the committee on the situation, official sources said.
The committee will during its four-day visit to Kashmir Valley review the situation on borders and in the hinterland and meet top officials of various security forces apart from mainstream political leadership, After completing the J&K visit, the committee is scheduled to visit Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat before finalising their report and submitting it to the Parliament.