ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday took a U-turn from its earlier statements saying that Jaish-e-Mohammed, which had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, does not exist in the country. The statement was made by the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor.
During an interview with CNN on February 28, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had admitted that the terror outfit's chief is present in his country.
Refuting Qureshi, Major General Asif Ghafoor said that the JeM claim of responsibility for the Pulwama attack had not been made from inside Pakistan. "Jaish-e-Muhammed does not exist in Pakistan. It has been proscribed by the United Nations and Pakistan also. Secondly, we are not doing anything under anybody's pressure," he claimed.
When asked by CNN if India and Pakistan were close to war after the Balakot strike, Major General Asif Ghafoor said, "We were, I would say, close to war because when they [India] violated the airspace under token aggression, we went for the response."
"Along the Line of Control (LoC) we were eyeball-to-eyeball. There is a presence of troops at the LoC for decades. But post the Indian aggression and our response, the safeguards have been taken by both side," Ghafoor said on the situation along the LoC.
After the Pulwama attack, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting what it said was a JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.
The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was handed over to India on Friday.
When asked about Indian claims regarding the Balakot air strike, Ghafoor said that not even a single brick had been found there nor were there any causalities. "Their [Indian] claims are false," he said.
(With PTI inputs)