Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s statement on the killing of five soldiers on the Line of Control in Poonch sector led to a furore in Parliament on Wednesday with the Opposition accusing him of “exonerating” the Pakistan Army. Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were repeatedly adjourned and no business was transacted except the tabling of the National Food Security Bill that is to replace an ordinance.
On Tuesday, Mr. Antony said armed terrorists dressed in Pakistani Army uniforms were responsible for the attack early in the day.
Leading the attack on Mr. Antony, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the Defence Minister could not give Pakisan an “escape route,” and demanded an apology from him.
“They [Pakistan Army] come to kill and our Defence Minister says Pakistan Army is not involved,” Ms. Swaraj said. Quoting from two statements, she said while the Defence Ministry had clearly said the attack was carried out by the Pakistani Army, Mr. Antony described the perpetrators as “terrorists and some men in Pakistani Army uniforms.”
Ms. Swaraj alleged that Mr. Antony got the version of the Army statement changed and asked why a person of sincerity, honesty and integrity did so. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was present in the House, she demanded a statement from him on the issue.
The BJP had also given notice of a breach of privilege motion against Mr. Antony. Speaker Meira Kumar told BJP leader Yashwant Sinha that his notice was under her consideration. A similar motion was given in the Rajya Sabha also.
In the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Antony said his statement was based on “whatever information” he had. He said he would get back to the House if he got more details of the incident after the visit of Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh to Jammu. There would be no compromise on defence of the country, he said.
The BJP members, however, continued to target him, resulting in three adjournments. BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “The Defence Minister has to clarify and tender an apology to the country. The government has let down the people of the country and demoralised the armed forces. Accusing government of “putting pressure on the Army,” Mr. Naidu asked whether its statement was changed in view of the Prime Minister’s proposal to visit to the United Nations and hold talks with Pakistan there.