Pathankot Attack: A perfect script for a Bollywood movie — murder, suspense, action, betrayal


Ehsan Khalid

An NIA investigation report has been vehemently denied by the IAF that terrorists entered the air base on 1 January using nylon ropes (The Hindu report, 12 January). IAF claim that terrorists entered on 2 January completely contradicts the NIA, NSG, NSA and police version of attack. Till date, the nation doesn’t know on which date terrorists entered the air base and what route they took.

However, what we know that terrorists were gracious enough to help us by leaving witnesses alive, some Urdu pamphlets in an Innova car, calling Pakistan from Salvinder’s phone, wearing Pakistani shoes and carrying Pakistani medicines. What more cooperation could we ask from our friendly neighbourhood! They did most of our work. With such tell-tale evidences left by terrorists, our James Bonds are connecting dots to reach nowhere.

Before we take this issue on diplomatic channel, it is imperative that Home Minister, Defence Minister, NIA, IAF, NSA and Punjab police speak the same language otherwise, as a nation, we run the risk of becoming a laughing stock at international level.

Pathankot attack is no less than Bollywood masala film full of action, drama, suspense, kindness, some romance (SP Salvinder Singh reportedly had extra-marital affairs), drug mafia, religious fanatics, and media super stars like Arnab doing public trial. It has kidnapping, murder and martyrs with terror plot that will shame any of the Sydney Sheldon thrillers and James Bond movies. Let’s begin with some Alia Bhat type questions and you don’t have to be a James Bond or Arnab Goswami to understand the plot.

James Bond:    Name the first act of kindness in 2016?

Alia Bhatt:      Three hostages left alive by the terrorists at mid-night of 31st December.

James Bond:    Why were witnesses left alive by the terrorists?

Alia Bhatt:      Obviously, to talk and tell their sob story.

James Bond:    Who allowed them to talk to media?

Alia Bhatt:      The security forces.

James Bond:    Why talk to media?

Alia Bhatt:      Sharing New Year party experience with India and Pakistan directly!

James Bond:    What did they talk to media?

Alia Bhatt:      Cool stuff! Kidnapper dudes in army fatigue were talking with some Paki-guys planning to attack the air base, jahaaz, suicide mission! Usual Bollywood stuff…whatever.

At this stage Arnab Goswami steps in and asks real tough question on the news hour.

Arnab Goswami:         Why didn’t they call police for help immediately after their release? Delay of at least three hours. Unexplainable. They had mobile phones on them. Nation wants to know. You have to answer the question, Ms Alia. You can’t escape.

Alia Bhatt:      Dude, they had dope on them. Would u call police till dope was disposed of!


Boom, the plot thickens on 2 January as Pathankot air base is attacked in Dabang style. Can’t really crib as terrorists were fair, warned us, gave enough time to put our act together, told their plans to us and still, we were caught with our pants down for over 60 hours. Movie begins as the dong hits the New Year 2016……

‘Tumahare pass 24 ghante hain Doval sahab, bacha sakte ho to bacha lo apne Air Base ko (You have 24 hours Mr Doval, save your air base if you can.)’ Open challenge to India.

Abduction & release of ‘three idiots’

Three key eye-witnesses (Superintendent of Police Salvinder Singh, his cook, and his jeweller friend Mr Rajesh) were abducted at around 9.30 pm on 31 December but as an act of extreme kindness they were released alive. Gabbar khush hua! Hostages were left alive by the kidnappers to tell their abduction story and impending terror attack to the police, security agencies and the national media. Terrorists had no intentions to protect the secrecy of their operation as huge as an air base attack!

NSA took the challenge and in the dead of the night of 1 January, 200-odd NSG commandos landed at the airbase using big aircraft and helicopters. Game begun only after 24 hours as promised by terrorists — ‘ek baar commitment kar liya to kar liya’.

By giving advance warning, did they plan to fail their terror-attack or make their attack even more challenging or did they have other objectives in leaving these eye-witnesses alive? Only in Bollywood, Dabang kind of hero gives advance warning of attack to the villain and attacks the same target with open challenge.

Drug-Terror Nexus: Dagaa sahab, maal peer baba ke mazaar par aa jayega.

It is a possibility that Salvinder Singh was a part of drug-nexus but he was double crossed and actually abducted. He could therefore be lying partially but could be speaking absolute truth about the abduction. His statement was recorded in FIR even before the first bullet was fired. So, his role in abetting with terrorists is unlikely. But who double crossed him and why?

What if Salvinder’s vehicle was really abducted by kidnappers in exactly the manner that he has lodged the FIR and that he or his abductors had nothing to do with the attack?

Terrorists don’t leave witnesses captured from blue-beaconed police vehicles alive to tell stories that can foil the big-attack game. Terrorists’ behaviour has been absolutely inconsistent. Didn’t they kill the Innova driver by slitting the throat? However, the same terrorists spared these three hostages, who were witness to kidnappers talking to their handlers in Pakistan and had clearly heard the terror attack plans being discussed. Terrorists were kind to all hostages except for the minor cut on the neck of Mr Rajesh which was curiously reported as slitting the throat. Was it slitting the throat or careful cut to make it just bleed a little? Salvinder Singh’s mobile phone was spared by the kidnappers so that he could call for help after he was dumped. However, the kidnappers also knew that he won’t call police for next four to five hours till 3.30 am because he will be busy disposing of the drug consignment (a possibility!). That could explain three hours’ delay in reporting the matter to police.

Mr Rajesh, the third hostage, was also left in the car without being tied with ropes so that he could easily escape soon after the kidnappers left the car just 180 metres away from the airbase security wall. Lighted security walls in the darkness of night must be outstanding and yet, Mr Rajesh did not reach out to the security guards on duty on the watch tower but ran to some villagers asking for help. How much blood was splattered inside the SUV?

Kidnappers really wanted eye witnesses to live. Why? To tell their story to the world! To alert the security forces! Doesn’t happen in the real world, but it happened.

There was a big problem for the kidnappers. What if no one believed the bizarre kidnapping story told by as high a police official as Superintendent of Police?


Welcome to the Bollywood masala…‘Pathankot Ke Hussgullay’.

Ajit: Mona darling, SP sahab ke phone se, Pakistan phone lagao.

Mona darling: Pakistan kyun Boss?

Ajit: Mona darling, yeh call record hoga. Doval sahab aur sare Hindustaan ko pata chal jayega ki Sona Pakistan se aaya hai. Ha Ha Ha! Hamaara consignment Nepal se aa raha hai.

Mona darling: Boss, you are a genius.


So, the kidnappers made numerous meaningless calls to their handlers in Pakistan. Obviously, these calls were being tracked and recorded.  These mobile phone calls to Pakistan would validate the terror plot story as a sequel to abduction plot. Bizarre sequence of events, failures and miraculous coincidences that unfolded in the first week of January 2016 does not add-up logically.

All is not well in the terror attack story that has been told so far.

(The writer is a retired squadron leader of the Indian Air Force)

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