Terming the terror attack in Pulwama as an “unfortunate incident”, Pakistan’s Information and broadcasting minister Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday said that government is “taken aback” by the incident.
In an exclusive conversation with The Indian Express over telephone on Saturday evening, Chaudhry said that organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammad are “dead” and seriously doubted their ability to carry out an attack of this scale.
“These organisations are dead, I seriously doubt their ability to do something like this. They are well under control,” he said.
He also said that this government in Pakistan and Pakistan’s military are “very close to each other”, and the military is supportive of the government’s peace process.
“This Imran Khan government and military are very close to each other, and I have no doubt that military is supportive of the government’s peace process,” he said.
“Even as an observer, not as a minister, I think this (that Pakistan government is involved) is unlikely. Pakistan has nothing to do with it (the terror attack,” he said.
Chaudhry, who’s a close confidant of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, started the conversation by saying, “This is an unfortunate incident, and this has strengthened the anti-peace lobby in the two countries.”
“We have concluded a visit of the UAE Crown Prince, we are going to have Saudi Crown Prince’s visit, we are trying to normalise the relationship with India, we are working towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan…frankly, to cut the long story short — we are trying to come out of the economic mess,” Chaudhry told The Indian Express.
“We couldn’t have expected a more sad timing for this incident…We are taken aback,” he said, expressing shock over the incident.
“Even before taking oath, Imran Khan had said that we are ready to take two steps, if India takes one step forward…We were criticised by the anti-India lobby in Pakistan, but we went all the way…par tali do haathon se bajti hai (it takes two hands to clap),” he said.
“We are not getting the right kind of response,” he said.
“India needs to look inward. Putting blame outside is the easier way out. A segment of the Indian leadership is blaming external actors and not looking inward, about what is happening in Kashmir, so many people are dying,” he said.
“And the kind of warmongering that is happening, we are not ready for it,” he said. “We really wanted that after the elections, the relationship will get better, but this incident has taken place,” he said.
When asked about Jaish’s involvement, he said that “there are about 60 Jaish outfits here and all these groups are connected”.
“For India, the issue is to find a scapegoat…Toh Masood Azhar ko pakad lo…(so catch Masood Azhar). These organisations are dead, I seriously doubt their ability to do something like this, they are well under control.”
On immediate and verifiable action, he said, “I don’t know about it… right now, we are busy with the MBS (Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s) visit, after the visit we will discuss.”
“We understand that the environment in Pakistan gets hostile, when blasts happen, people are angry, especially with Afghanistan and there is overreaction here as well. But the political leadership needs to act calmly. But for political leaders, elections are very important,” he says, alluding to India’s elections.
India, however, had responded on Friday night about Pakistan Foreign Secretary’s briefing rejecting Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama attack and Pakistan following a constructive approach, as the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said, “JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack. The organization and its leadership are located in Pakistan. LeT and other terror groups have welcomed the news of the attack. These groups are also based in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot claim that it is unaware of their presence and their activities. They have not taken any action against these groups despite international demands, especially against groups and individuals proscribed by the UN and other countries. The links to Pakistan are clear and evident for all to see. Its own Ministers have shared the same podium with UN proscribed terrorists.”
“Furthermore, the demand for an investigation is preposterous when there is a video of the suicide bomber declaring himself a member of the JeM. There are also other audio-visual and print material linking JeM to the terrorist attack. We have therefore no doubt that the claim is firmly established,” Kumar had said.
“We have not seen any constructive approach from Pakistan on relations with India. What we have noticed however, are claims to offer dialogue on the one hand, while sponsoring and sheltering terrorists and terrorist organizations such as JeM on the other. We demand Pakistan take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control to create a conducive atmosphere in the region free of terror,” he said, in a statement issued late on Friday night.