NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday denied any role in the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack, and warned India against any retaliatory action. In the same breath, however, he guaranteed that Pakistan would take action if India provided any actionable evidence or intelligence that Pakistani elements were involved.
India, however, pointed out that Khan had neither condemned nor condoled the attack, and dismissed his remarks as an “oft-repeated excuse by Pakistan.” Despite having provided heaps of evidence linking Pakistan to the 26/11 attack and that on the Pathankot airbase, nothing has been done. “It is well known that JeM (which claimed responsibility for the attack) and its leader Masood Azhar are based in Pakistan. These should be sufficient proof,” said the MEA.
In a radio and video message on Tuesday, Khan said he didn’t respond earlier because of the important visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
Insisting that a naya (new) Pakistan was moving towards stability and peace, Khan said India had accused Pakistan blindly, without once asking “What would be in it for Pakistan? And even if he [the crown prince] had not been visiting, what benefit would Pakistan get from it?”
Noting Delhi’s insistence on terrorism being on the agenda for any talks, he said “Pakistan has been the worst affected by terrorism (and) therefore, we are ready to talk.” He also urged India to introspect on Kashmir, saying if years of oppression by Indian forces failed to resolve the issue, “do you think they will be successful in the future?”
“Secondly, you are facing an election year. And we believe that during the election, [you think] you will get a big boost if you ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’,” he said.
The MEA, after noting that Pakistani ministers publicly share platforms with proscribed terrorists like Hafeez Saeed, said India was always ready to talk in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.
Meanwhile, France and Israel expressed their support to India. France said it would step up pressure at the UN to declare Masood Azhar as a terrorist and pressure the Financial Action Task Force to ensure Pakistan remains on its grey list of countries that finance terror. Israel offered “unconditional help” to India to fight terrorism, and said “there is no limit” to its assistance.
Army points at Pak-ISI-JeM nexus
The attack was carried out by the JeM, but “activated, controlled, coordinated and executed” with support from the Pakistani Army and the ISI, top army commanders said on Tuesday, even as Kashmiri separatists blamed the government for unleashing military repression.