Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday assured India that he would act against the perpetrators of the Pulwama terror attack if New Delhi shares “actionable intelligence”, but warned against any “revenge” retaliatory action.
In a video message to the nation, Khan responded to the Indian allegations on Pakistan’s involvement in the attack in Kashmir last Thursday. The suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group left 40 CRPF personnel dead.
Pakistan wants “stability in the region”, Khan said, adding 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 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,” he 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. Khan said. “Its not in our interests that somebody from here goes out to do terrorism, nor that somebody comes here and does terrorism,” he added.
Khan said Pakistan was ready for talks with India on terrorism. “I say it clearly this is a Naya (new) Pakistan and a new mindset,” he said. “India talks about including terrorism in dialogue with Pakistan. Terrorism is a big issue facing this region and we want to eliminate it,” Khan said.
“If someone is using Pakistan’s soil [to carry out terror attacks elsewhere], it is enmity with us. It is against our interests,” Khan said while talking about non-state actors. He said he did not respond to India’s allegations as he was busy with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the country.
“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 Khan asked. “We have been fighting against terrorism for the past 15 years. How will Pakistan benefit from such incidents?”
On the Kashmir issue, Khan said “Kashmiris are not afraid of death any more. 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 military”, Khan said, “This has never been a successful measure”.
The already sour relations between India and Pakistan have worsened over the past week as New Delhi blamed Islamabad for the Pulwama attack. The Pakistani leadership has strongly refuted the allegations.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said India was not surprised that Khan refused to acknowledge the attack on India’s security forces in Pulwama as an act of terrorism, adding his offer to investigate the attack if provided proof is a "lame excuse".
“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,” the MEA said. "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," it said.
“Promises of ‘guaranteed action’ ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan,” the MEA said. It said Pakistan claimed to be the greatest victim of terrorism but this is far from truth. "The international community is well acquainted with the reality that Pakistan is the nerve centre of terrorism," the MEA said.
It also came down hard on the Pakistan Prime Minister for his comments linking India’s upcoming general elections to the narrative of blaming Pakistan. He said it would make it easier to get votes from the masses. "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,” the MEA said.
Rejecting the "false allegations", the MEA said India’s democracy was a model for the world which Pakistan would never understand. "We demand Pakistan to stop misleading the international community and take credible and visible action against the perpetrators of Pulwama terrorist attack and other terrorists and terror groups operating from areas under their control," it said.
On Khan’s reference to build a new Pakistan, the MEA said, "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.”
“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 said.