Pakistan says ready to take Indian journalists to Balakot
Pakistan’s military on Monday contended the Indian air strike in Balakot in February had not resulted in loss of lives or damage to infrastructure even as it warned New Delhi not to test Islamabad’s resolve.
Addressing a news conference at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor repeated his offer to facilitate Indian journalists if they wished to visit Balakot to “see the truth”.
The Indian government has said it struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed facility at Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on February 26 in retaliation for the February 14 suicide bombing by JeM at Pulwama that killed 40 troops.
Pakistan, in turn, retaliated with air strikes along the Line of Control on February 27, which triggered an aerial engagement in which an Indian jet was shot down and its pilot captured.
Ghafoor contended India has been “repeatedly lying” and Pakistan has not responded. “For the past two months, India has told uncountable lies. As a responsible country, we have not responded to their lies,” he said.
He reiterated that the state of Pakistan wasn’t linked to the Pulwama attack and that Prime Minister Imran Khan had called for an investigation based on evidence as well as dialogue. Despite India’s contention that only one of its jets was downed on February 27, Ghafoor again claimed two jets were shot down. He also dismissed India’s contention that a Pakistani F-16 was shot down.
Ghafoor also said India shouldn’t test Pakistan’s resolve as the situation on the ground has changed since the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh from East Pakistan. “This is not 1971, it is not that force or those circumstances,” he said, adding Pakistan has been engaged in a “continuous struggle for support to the Kashmiris”.
He said “kinetic operations” had been conducted to kill terrorists and dismantle their facilities. “Today we can say with conviction and evidence that any kind of organised terrorist infrastructure is not present in Pakistan,” he said. “The state’s will and capacity is also based on financial capability. While we were conducting kinetic operations, we had to deal with threats on our eastern border at least three times,” he added.
Ghafoor said Pakistan plans to bring under state control more than 30,000 madrassas as part of a drive to “mainstream” them. “An Islamic education will continue to be provided but there will be no hate speech,” he said, adding seminaries will come under the purview of education ministry.
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