After Pathankot, How the NIA Probe was Undone by Punjab Politics
As the National Investigation Agency (NIA) quietly but surely lets the former Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police (Headquarter) Salwinder Singh off the hook in its investigation of the Pathankot terror strike, a befuddled security establishment continues to ask: kitne aadmi the?
This silly question on the number of terrorists who entered the Pathankot air base on January 1 is a cruel joke on the rest of the country. Meanwhile, Salwinder Singh has taken on a new assignment in Jalandhar with his faithful cook Madan Gopal in tow. His jeweller friend Rajesh Verma’s nick at the throat, caused by the terrorists, has long healed and he is back in his Gurdaspur store that deals in diamonds and gem stones. And the Taloor mazaar caretaker Som Raj has returned to tend to the humble shrine.
The most important part of the NIA’s case – the alleged involvement of the four men – appears to have been buried, leaving inane questions, such as the number of terrorists who entered Indian territory before sneaking into the air base, to dominate the minds of the agency’s investigators.
Curtains on Dinanagar and Pathankot
Today, the curtains finally appear to have been drawn on the Dinanagar and Pathankot terror attacks. Once again wily politicians have successfully shamed the country by bullying yet another so-called premier national security agency, the NIA. Having politicised the Intelligence Bureau, using the agency to gather political intelligence on rival parties, successive governments have reduced the CBI to a “caged parrot”.
The NIA gave the country some hope after it was established in 2008 in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike. But this nascent organisation too seems to have lost its independence, after it was amply clear that it was prepared to let off Salwinder Singh whose conduct prior to the attack on the Pathankot air base was not above board.
A Farcical Investigation
- NIA loses credibility with
its role in the Pathankot case being questioned after the agency’s clean chit
to SP Salwinder Singh.
- Some NIA officials admit
of instructions coming in from the top to give the part concerning
politicians-terrorist-police nexus a slip.
- With assembly polls due in
Punjab in 2017, attempts are being made to project a blemish-free image of politicians belonging to the state.
- Instead of beating around the
bush, investigators could have simply dug into the list of top drug smugglers compiled
by the police’s intelligence wing in 2007.
During their visits to Pathankot to probe the national shame, some NIA investigators are learned to have admitted that they were under pressure to bail out certain Punjab politicians and their accomplices suspected to be involved in the cross-border drug trade. They are said to have admitted that their orders were only to probe the ‘Pathankot air base attack’ and to give the part concerning politicians-terrorist (through smugglers)-police nexus, a total go-by.
Needless to say, the investigators’ morale was low. Senior IB and Research and Analysis Wing officials are also known to have visited Pathankot on more than one occasion only to bury the open secrets down in their heavy ‘Secret’ and ‘Top Secret’ files.
Punjab, India’s Drug State
And now, keeping in view the forthcoming state assembly elections scheduled to be held in the beginning of 2017, focus is on to whitewash Punjab and its polity. The recent war of words between a Goa minister and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is in fact the de facto CM, was the trigger. Both of them had accused each other of having the dubious title of being the ‘drug state’.
Consequently, a couple of days ago, the Punjab Police announced that it will adopt a ‘zero tolerance policy to drug menace’. This policy announcement accompanied the news that a 12-year-old child of Sundar Nagar in Hoshiarpur district had killed his 10-year-old friend because the latter had allegedly not been ‘judiciously and equally’ sharing an inhaling drug which the duo would go dutch to purchase.
In Punjab, drug dealing or buying narcotics is no big deal. Of course, it is a different thing that neither the state government nor its machinery, the police included, is ‘aware’ of this open secret.
‘Mapping’ is Sukhbir’s Favourite Word
Under this new anti-drug policy, the Punjab Police intends to ‘map’ the entire state to ascertain the areas where drugs might be available. Having known Sukhbir well, I can say with certainty that instruction came from him since “mapping” is one of his favourite words.
The million dollar question, however, is why the Punjab government and the police are not familiar with a menace known to the rest of the world. They could have simply dug into the list of top drug smugglers which was compiled by the police’s intelligence wing in 2007, under my directions. They could have taken strong action and heads including that of some ministers, would have rolled.
After Dinanagar in July last year and Pathankot last month, the Akali Dal allegedly pressured its alliance partner to desist from exposing the nexus that thrives and survives because of the drug trade. This brought shame to the NIA and fueled resentment among a small but sincere and honest bunch of officers.
(The writer is a former additional director general, Punjab Police)