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Imran Khan asks for proof of role in attack, it’s sitting in Pakistan, says India

Imran Khan on Tuesday offered to help New Delhi investigate the Pulwama suicide bombing, which was claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, but warned his country would retaliate if India carries out an attack over the strike.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2019 09:27 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad and Rezaul H Laskar
Imtiaz Ahmad and Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, Islamabad/New Delhi
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers policy statement on Pulwama attack, in Islamabad, Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers policy statement on Pulwama attack, in Islamabad, Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019. (PTI photo)
         

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday offered to help New Delhi investigate the Pulwama suicide bombing, which was claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, but warned his country would retaliate if India carries out an attack over the strike.

Within hours, New Delhi dismissed Khan’s offer, citing Pakistan’s track record in probing the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2016 Pathankot terror strike, which too were carried out by Pakistan-based terrorists, and on both of which India has provided substantial evidence to the country. India reiterated it is ready for a comprehensive dialogue but only in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

Shortly before Khan’s remarks during a televised address, top officials of the Indian Army, police and CRPF in Srinagar said the February 14 attack, which killed 40 troopers, was controlled from Pakistan with the active support of the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence.

As tensions between the two countries have spiked, PM Narendra Modi has pledged a fitting response. The Pulwama attack, Modi said on Monday, showed “the time for talks has passed”.

During his address in Urdu, Khan said he has heard Indian politicians and the media talking about “revenge” and teaching Pakistan a lesson but hoped “better sense” will prevail.

Also read | Singer Ali Zafar supports Pak PM Imran Khan’s address after Pulwama attack, says what a speech

“If you think you will carry out some sort of attack on Pakistan, Pakistan will not just think about retaliating, Pakistan will retaliate. Pakistan will have no other option but to retaliate and respond,” he said.

“After that, where will things go? We all know it is easy to start a war...but ending a war is not in the hands of humans,” he said, adding there were some in India who believed the government will get a boost in upcoming elections “if Pakistan is taught a lesson”.

Khan said Pakistan is ready to work with India in investigating the attack to ascertain “whether any Pakistani was involved”. He added, “If you have any actionable intelligence that Pakistan was involved, give it to us. I guarantee we will take action.”

Pakistan, he said, is also ready for talks with India on terrorism. “We will not take action because of pressure, but because if anyone is using Pakistani soil, he is our enemy and working against our interests,” he added.

Khan said he chose to speak five days after the Pulwama attack because his government was preoccupied with the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Union minister Arun Jaitley rejected Khan’s remarks as diversionary.

“Three things are obvious. There is not even a pretext of outright condemnation. Second, let alone sympathy for the bereaved families, not even lip sympathy for them. Thirdly, a very shallow logic – that provide to us actionable intelligence – as though the origin of the crime is not known. Actionable intelligence can only provide only some clues. Here the perpetrators of the crime have admitted to the crime,” Jaitley said at a news briefing in Delhi.

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The finance minister said the perpetrators were in Bahawalpur in Pakistan. He added that the masterminds of the attack had been eliminated and the security forces were extremely confident of dealing with the situation.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that since the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, successive Indian governments have sent “dossier after dossier” and “evidence after evidence” but Islamabad has taken no action. “There is nothing for Pakistan to show that it has taken action on evidence given,” she added.

Though Pakistan has previously denounced the attack, a statement from the external affairs ministry noted Khan has not offered any condemnation nor referred to the JeM, which claimed responsibility hours after the February 14 strike.

Khan’s offer to help in the investigation was met with scepticism in New Delhi as Islamabad made similar offers after the Mumbai attacks and the attack on an air force base in Pathankot. Pakistan has not prosecuted anyone for both attacks.

“The Pakistani Prime Minister has ignored claims made by the JeM, as well as by the terrorist who perpetrated this heinous crime. It is a well-known fact that JeM and its leader Masood Azhar are based in Pakistan. These should be sufficient proof for Pakistan to take action,” the external affairs ministry said.

Describing Khan’s offer to help investigate the Pulwama attack as a “lame excuse”, the statement said: “In the horrific attack in Mumbai…proof was provided to Pakistan. Despite this, the case has not progressed for the last more than 10 years…Promises of ‘guaranteed action’ ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan.”

Pointing to Khan’s reference to a “Naya Pakistan” with a new thinking, the statement said ministers of his government had publicly shared platforms with terrorists like Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed.

Pakistan, the statement added, is the “nerve centre of terrorism” and it was regrettable that Khan “insinuated that India’s response to the terrorist attack is determined by the forthcoming general election”.

“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 Pulwama terrorist attack and other terrorists and terror groups operating from areas under their control,” it said.

Also read | Pakistan PM Imran Khan says ready to talk terror, then packs in warning against strikes

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 22:41 IST