Pak PM seeks ‘actionable intelligence’, warns against ‘revenge’ attack.
New Delhi/Islamabad: Hours after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan asked India to furnish proof of Pakistani involvement in plotting the Pulwama attacks and also warned India of military retaliation in case of any attack by India, New Delhi hit back, saying that Pakistan has been the “nerve centre of terrorism” and describing the Pakistani offer to investigate as a “lame excuse”.
Describing the Pakistani denial of involvement as an “oft-repeated excuse”, India termed as “regrettable” and a “false allegation” Mr Khan’s insinuation that the Indian response to the terror attack was determined by the forthcoming general election. It also said terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) had confessed to the attack and that the fact that its leader Masood Azhar is based in Pakistan “should be sufficient proof” for Islamabad to take action. New Delhi also reminded Pakistan of its refusal to act in the 26/11 case despite the proof provided by India, adding India had always been ready for a dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror. The Indian statement was, however, silent on Mr Khan’s threat of retaliation in case of any military action by India.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Khan sought to assure India that he would act against the perpetrators of the Pulwama terror attack if New Delhi shares “actionable intelligence”, but at the same time warned against any “revenge” retaliatory action. In a video message to the nation, Mr Khan said: “I have been hearing and seeing on the Indian media that politicians there are calling for revenge from Pakistan. If India thinks it will attack Pakistan, then we will not just think but retaliate. Starting a war is in our hands, it is easy. But ending a war, that is not in our hands and no one knows what will happen.” The Pakistani PM added that “India accused Pakistan without any evidence”.
The Pakistani PM’s message is seen by observers as a sign of nervousness on the part of the Pakistani military establishment amid speculation whether India would carry out another surgical strike against militants operating from Pakistani soil or territory controlled by it. Some observers are also seeing it as an attempt by Pakistan to ward off pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia.
In a detailed statement, the external affairs ministry said: “We are not surprised that the Prime Minister of Pakistan refuses to acknowledge the attack on our security forces in Pulwama as an act of terrorism. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has neither chosen to condemn this heinous act nor condoled with the bereaved families. 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-Mohammad, as well as by the terrorist who perpetrated this heinous crime. It is a well-known fact that Jaish-e-Mohammad and its leader Masood Azhar are based in Pakistan. These should be sufficient proof for Pakistan to take action.”
The MEA added: “The Prime Minister of Pakistan has offered to investigate the matter if India provides proof. This is a lame excuse. 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 the Pathankot airbase, there has been no progress. Promises of ‘guaranteed action’ ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan. The Prime Minister has referred to a ‘Naya (new) Pakistan’ with a 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.”
New Delhi added: “Pakistan’s Prime Minister has called for a 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. Pakistan claims to be the greatest victim of terrorism. This is far from the truth. The international community is well acquainted with the reality that Pakistan is the nerve centre of terrorism.”
Lashing out at Mr Khan, the MEA pointed out: “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. We demand Pakistan stop misleading the international community and take credible and visible action against the perpetrators of the Pulwama terrorist attack and other terrorists and terror groups operating from areas under their control.”
In an insinuation that infuriated India, the Pakistani PM said that he understood it was India’s election year and the narrative of blaming Pakistan would make it easier to get votes from the masses, but he hoped that better sense will prevail and that India would be open to dialogue. He said that New Delhi holds Pakistan responsible each time an incident happens in Kashmir, and makes Pakistan its “whipping boy” again and again. “The Kashmir issue, like the Afghan issue, will be resolved through talks,” he said.
“If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani is involved… give it to us. I guarantee you we will take action — not because we are under pressure, but because they are acting as enemies of Pakistan,” Mr Khan said. “It’s not in our interests that somebody from here goes out to do terrorism, nor that somebody comes here and does terrorism,” he added. He also said Pakistan was ready for talks with India on terrorism.
“I say it clearly this is a Naya (new) Pakistan and a new mindset,” the Pakistan PM said. “India talks about including terrorism in dialogue with Pakistan. Terrorism is a big issue facing this region and we want to eliminate it,” the Pakistan PM said. “If someone is using Pakistan’s soil [to carry out terror attacks elsewhere], it is enmity with us. It is against our interests,” Mr Khan added, while talking about non-state actors.
“India accused Pakistan without any evidence and without thinking how this [attack] would benefit us,” he added. “Would even a fool try to sabotage such an important visit as that of the Saudi Crown Prince?” the prime minister asked. “We have been fighting against terrorism for the past 15 years. How will Pakistan benefit from such incidents?”
On the Kashmir issue, Mr Khan said: “Kashmiris are not afraid of death anymore. There must be a reason for that. Should there not be a discussion in India on this?” he asked. “Which law in the world allows everyone to become a judge and jury?” Questioning whether India “wants to resolve the issue through the military”, Mr Khan said: “This has never been a successful measure.”