In his first statement five days after 40 CRPF men were killed in a terror attack in Pulwama, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday warned that Pakistan will “retaliate” if India launches attacks to avenge the February 14 strike.
In a six-minute video message, Khan’s tone and language was seen in New Delhi as quite unusual for a democratically elected leader in Pakistan in the recent past. Neither did he condemn the single bloodiest attack in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three decades of militancy nor did he mention Jaish-e-Mohammad or its chief Maulana Masood Azhar by name.
This despite the fact that the Jaish claimed responsibility after a vehicle, driven by local resident Adil Dar, rammed into a CRPF bus killing 40 security personnel. You can read the full text of Imran Khan’s speech here.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who called Khan’s comments as a “diversionary statement”, said, “Pakistan’s land has been used for this terror, as it has been happening earlier, which is why there is not trust or acceptance of Pakistan’s stand in the entire global community.”
In a prepared statement on Pakistan Television, Khan said that Pakistan was ready to co-operate in the Indian investigation and will take action, if Delhi provides any “actionable intelligence”. He proposed a dialogue to discuss terrorism and raised the issue of Kashmir, something which has been part of every Pakistan leader’s playbook in the recent years.
The Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to Khan’s remark on retaliation but it gave a point-by-point rebuttal challenging Khan’s assertions.
Calling his offer to probe a “lame excuse,” the MEA said: “Disclaiming any link between the terrorist attack and Pakistan is an oft-repeated excuse by Pakistan. The Pakistani Prime Minister has ignored claims made by the Jaish-e-Mohammed, as well as by the terrorist, who perpetrated this heinous crime…It is a well-known fact that Jaish and its leader Masood Azhar are based in Pakistan. These should be sufficient proof for Pakistan to take action.”
Days after the terror strike, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said security forces have been given a free hand to respond to the attack.
Khan, who spoke at 1.30 pm IST on Tuesday, said, “We are listening through Indian media where politicians are shouting that Pakistan should be taught a lesson, revenge should be taken and the attack should be avenged. Which law in the world gives power to an individual or a nation and permits them to become judge, jury and executioner? What justice system is this? It is your election year and we understand that during elections you will get a boost to teach Pakistan a lesson.”
“If you think, you would launch any attack on Pakistan and we would not think of retaliating, Pakistan will retaliate. Pakistan would not have any other choice, to give an answer. We know it is easy to start a war. It is in the hands of humans to start a war, however, to end war isn’t in our hands. In which direction this will go, Allah knows better. Therefore, I hope better sense will prevail, will use our intelligence and wisdom,” he said, hoping that like Afghanistan, this issue will be resolved through dialogue.
The Pakistan PM said, “You have blamed Pakistan for the attack without any evidence…Would Pakistan, currently hosting such an important conference (an investment conference timed with the visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)…would anyone, even a fool, do this which would result in a sabotage of such an important conference? Why would we attack, how do we benefit?”
Proposing an investigation, Khan said, “I am offering the Indian government that they if they want to do any sort of investigation to probe Pakistani involvement in this, we are ready. If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani was involved, give that information to us. I guarantee that I will take action.”
The MEA countered this: “In the horrific attack in Mumbai on 26/11, proof was provided to Pakistan. Despite this, the case has not progressed for the last more than 10 years. Likewise, on the terror attack on Pathankot airbase, there has been no progress. Promises of ‘guaranteed action’ ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan.”
Proposing a dialogue on terrorism, the Pakistan PM said, “Whenever we ask India to start a dialogue, India always has a precondition of discussing terrorism. I am telling you that we are ready to talk about terrorism. Terrorism is an issue of the entire region and we want it to end. Pakistan has suffered the most due to terrorism — 70,000 Pakistanis have died due to terrorism, we have suffered a loss of more than 100 million dollars. We are ready to talk to you.”
“Pakistan’s Prime Minister has called for dialogue and expressed his readiness to talk about terrorism. India has repeatedly stated that it is ready to engage in a comprehensive bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence,” the MEA countered.
Khan said, “When Pakistan is moving towards stability…Terrorism is on the decline.. Peace is on the horizon. why would we attack, how do we benefit?”
New Delhi rebutted this saying Pakistan claims to be the greatest victim of terrorism. “This is far from truth. The international community is well acquainted with the reality that Pakistan is the nerve center of terrorism,” it said.
Responding to Khan’s criticism that “during elections the ruling party will get a boost to teach Pakistan a lesson”, New Delhi said: “It is regrettable that the Pakistani Prime Minister has insinuated that India’s response to the terrorist attack is determined by the forthcoming General Election. India rejects this false allegation. India’s democracy is a model for the world which Pakistan would never understand.”
The MEA reiterated its demand that Pakistan should stop misleading the international community and take credible and visible action against the perpetrators of Pulwama terrorist attack.
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Khan raised the issue of Kashmir: “I also want to ask India’s Prime Minister — if you are stuck in the past. Whenever there’s an incident in Kashmir, you blame Pakistan. Instead of starting a dialogue to resolve the issue in Kashmir, you have made Pakistan the whipping boy. I have repeatedly said that this is the new Pakistan with a new mindset and a new thought process. It is in our interest that we don’t want anyone from outside to spread terrorism in our country or any of our men spreading terrorism in another country. We want stability.”
“There should be a new thought process in India. India should introspect, why the Kashmiri youth have reached a stage where they don’t fear death anymore. There must be some reason. Do you think one-dimensional oppression, torture and resolving issues through military is the solution? Do you think if it hasn’t worked till now, would it work in the future?…If after 17 years, the world has realised that military is not the solution in Afghanistan and only dialogue would resolve issues, should India also not discuss this?” he said.
The MEA took a swipe at Khan’s reference to “Naya Pakistan” with new thinking. “In this ‘Naya Pakistan,’ Ministers of the current Government publicly share platforms with terrorists like Hafeez Saeed who have been proscribed by the United Nations,” it said.
Actionable intelligence, Jaitley said, “can only provide some clues” while in this case “the perpetrators of crime have admitted to the crime” as “there is a confession by them” even though it is “in the form of muscle-flexing”. The perpetrators, he said, “are admittedly located in the country of which” Khan is the Prime Minister.
Two of the persons “liquidated yesterday” in the aftermath of the incident in Pulwama, Jaitley added, are Pak nationals. The handlers “have admitted to the offence and therefore this claim that provide us and we will act…the evidence is in their own home,” said Jaitley.