Protests erupted near the Pathankot airbase on Tuesday morning as Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the terror attack on the air base headed to Pathankot town in north Punjab. Activists of Punjab’s main opposition Congress party held the protest near a road which is to be taken by the Pakistani probe team. They carried black flags and banners. The banners named officials of the Pakistani team, especially those from Pakistan’s InterServices Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence.
Security agencies deputed additional personnel outside the rear part of the air base following the protests to strengthen security. Punjab opposition parties, the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had said that they protest against the Pakistan team visit to the AFS.
The JIT members, who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday and had daylong meetings with National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers, left for Amritsar on Tuesday morning en route to Pathankot. Tight security arrangements have been made in and around the frontier IAF base in view of the visit and likely protests against the visiting Pakistani investigation team. Authorities at Pathankot airbase said that the visiting Pakistan probe team will be taken only to specific and limited areas within the sprawling Air Force Station (AFS) complex.
The JIT members will be kept away from the AFS’ technical area and shown only those areas where security forces engaged the Pakistani terrorists in the first week of January. “We have, physically and visually, barricaded the airbase. Tent walls have been erected around the crime scene (shootout site) and nothing else will be visible to the JIT members. Their entry will also be through a special gate through the rear portion of the airbase,” an IAF officer told MEDIA.
Punjab Police DIG (deputy inspector general) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said that the Pakistan JIT will be taken by the NIA to the site of the gunbattle. “The team will be provided access to the area of the encounter,” Singh said. Informed defence sources here said the team members could also be shown the bodies of the killed terrorists kept in a government mortuary. NIA officers will accompany the JIT members.
The JIT will not get to interact with IAF or other defence and security officials and personnel involved in the 80hour counteroperation by security forces against the terrorists who attacked the airbase in the early hours of January 2.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday in Goa that the Pakistani team would not have access to the operational area of the airbase, but only the isolated “crime scene”, which has been completely barricaded and fenced.
All the terrorists and seven security personnel were killed at the base. The January attack on the IAF base was the second one by suspected Pakistani terrorists. A group of three Pakistani terrorists had attacked Dinanagar town in adjoining Gurdaspur district on July 27 last year, leaving seven people dead.