Pakistan team heads to Pathankot; may face protests

Pathankot, March 29 (IANS) Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for the Pathankot air base attack headed to Pathankot town in north Punjab on Tuesday amid tight security in view of Punjab’s opposition parties threatening to protest against the visit.

The JIT members, who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday and had day-long 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.

Punjab opposition parties, the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have said that they will hold protests near the AFS against the visit.

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 IANS.

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 80-hour counter-operation 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 Panaji (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.

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