Pathankot Attack: Questions Swirl Around Gurdaspur SP’s Role

Emerging details point towards a suspected connivance between the Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh and the saboteurs.

Updated
Opinion
3 min read
Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh. (Photo: The Quint)

As security forces struggle to eliminate the terrorists who stormed and entered the IAF’s Pathankot base, unsavoury details are emerging that point towards suspected connivance between the Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police, and the saboteurs whose objective was to cause maximum damage to the air force’s assets.

Disturbing questions, which could be potentially embarrassing for the Punjab Police and the Intelligence Bureau, are being asked in sensitive quarters of the state and central governments over SP (Headquarter) Salwinder Singh’s suspicious activities on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday. During that period, he was, by his own admission, abducted by the terrorists, who subsequently released him without causing any harm.

The question that officers in the intelligence agencies are grappling with, but are reluctant to get to the bottom of at this point in time, is whether Salwinder Singh played a role in the pernicious drug trade that has assumed alarming proportions in a state which has a long international border with Pakistan.

Did the SP’s Involvement in Indo-Pak Drug Trade Make Him a Pawn

An army person guards during the operation against the militants at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on Monday. (Photo: PTI) 
An army person guards during the operation against the militants at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on Monday. (Photo: PTI) 

Over the years, and especially in the past few years, the illicit drug trade that operates all the way up to Afghanistan via Pakistan, has singed the Punjab Police, along with some state politicians.

It is the extent of the drug trade and alleged involvement of state officials in it that has caused intelligence officers to suspect that Salwinder became an unintended pawn in the hands of the terrorists, believed to owe allegiance to the Jaish-e-Mohammad. They are wondering whether Salwinder was close to the drug mafia operating in Punjab’s border districts.

When contacted for comments on his immediate subordinate, Gurdaspur Senior Superintendent of Police Gurpreet Singh Toor took the plea that he won’t be able to speak as he was accompanying the Chief Minister. The Punjab Police had earlier dismissed suggestions that Salwinder might be linked with the terrorists.

What Was Salwinder Doing Near the Border?

They see the presence of the SP, a promotee IPS officer who was to shortly take over as assistant commandant of the Punjab Police’s 75th armed battalion in Jalandhar, along with a jeweller friend Rajesh Verma, and his cook Madan Gopal alias Mohan Lal, but no security detail close to the border, as rather odd.

Salwinder does not have an unblemished record. He has previously been accused of sexually harassing five women constables, for which he was transferred to Jalandhar.

What is even more unusual is that while Salwinder was in plain clothes, he used his blue beacon-topped official vehicle (Mahindra XUV 500) to drive to Pathankot where the terrorists supposedly waved down his car before knifing Verma on his neck, but not slashing deep enough to kill. Strangely, the terrorists spared the SP’s life.

A Suspicious Late Night Rendezvous

Army personnel during their operation against the militants at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on Monday. (Photo: PTI)
Army personnel during their operation against the militants at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on Monday. (Photo: PTI)

Salwinder’s explanation for his visit to Pathankot was that he had gone to pay obeisance to some deity in that district when his vehicle, being driven by Verma, was waylaid at Kolian Village under Narot Jaimal Singh police station well past midnight. Would any police officer venture out to another district so late in the night to pay obeisance at some obscure shrine? A thorough interrogation of Salwinder’s cook, who appears to be the odd man among the trio, will reveal the truth.

The car was subsequently found abandoned at Tajpur near Pathankot town. Even if this is to be believed, it is surprising that the terrorists did not kill all the three occupants of the vehicle. It is unlikely that the terrorists would not have realised that they had captured a police officer. His explanation on Saturday, that he talked his way out of the terrorists’ control, just does not seem to sit well with his overall suspicious movements.

Salwinder’s Exaggerated Account

Salwinder’s account, which is suspected to have been exaggerated to project that he outwitted the terrorists and then walked two hours to a village where he sought the help of a villager before alerting his superiors, might even lead to his undoing.

However, it is likely that the cesspool of cross-border drug trade and local politics could come to Salwinder’s rescue, given that disclosure of details of his involvement could blow the lid on the murky activities in Punjab’s border districts.

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