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Will respond at time of our choosing: Pakistan

Both Qureshi and Ghafoor said Pakistani and the international media would be taken to the site targeted by the Indian combat jets so that they could gauge for themselves what had happened.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2019 10:46 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times
AF,IAF strikes in PoK,Shah Mahmood Qureshi
Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a special meeting of the National Security Committee at Pak PMO in Islamabad on Tuesday. (ANI)

Pakistan’s leadership on Tuesday described the Indian strike on Balakot as “uncalled-for aggression” and warned the country will respond at “a time and place of its choosing”, with Islamabad rejecting New Delhi’s contention that the operation caused heavy casualties.

Soon after India confirmed the strike, PM Imran Khan chaired a special meeting of the country’s National Security Committee to assess the situation. Khan also called a meeting on February 27 of the National Command Authority, the body responsible for command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, an indication the government is considering the “full -spectrum of response”, officials said.

The security committee “concluded that India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing”, an official statement said without giving details. Khan directed “elements of national power, including the armed forces and the people of Pakistan, to remain prepared for all eventualities”, the statement added. He also decided to engage the global leadership to “expose irresponsible Indian policy”. The committee “strongly rejected [the] Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties”, and said the Indian government had “resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim” with an eye on upcoming elections.

India’s action, it added, had put “regional peace and stability at grave risk”.

Addressing a news briefing, Pakistan foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, reiterated Khan’s remarks of February 21 that the country will retaliate if India carries out any operation over the February 14 Pulwama terror attack. He said preparations were underway at the political, diplomatic and military levels and “we will respond”.

At a separate news briefing at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, chief military spokesman, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, said India’s armed forces “will never be able to surprise” Pakistan. He too rejected reports of the air strike and said the Pakistan Air Force had responded to an intrusion in the Muzaffarabad sector.

“We have not been surprised, we were ready, we responded [and] we denied...I said we will surprise you, wait for that surprise. Our response will be different, see it for yourself, the response will come and it will come differently,” he said.

Both Qureshi and Ghafoor said Pakistani and the international media would be taken to the site targeted by the Indian combat jets so that they could gauge for themselves what had happened.

The meeting of the National Security Committee, which was attended by the chiefs of the three services and key ministers, also decided to convene a joint session of Parliament. Qureshi said this was being done to take the political leadership into confidence and to hold consultations with them on the evolving situation.

Qureshi also questioned the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s decision to invite India’s foreign minister as a guest of honour to a meeting of OIC foreign ministers to be held in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2. Foreign secretary, Tehmina Janjua, will present Pakistan’s views at a meeting of OIC’s contact group on Kashmir in Jeddah on Tuesday.

Pakistan’s acting foreign secretary also summoned the acting Indian high commissioner and protested about the “Indian aggression” and “violation of its airspace”, and promised a “befitting response”, a Foreign Office statement said. It added the Indian jets released their ordinance in an “uninhabited remote area” and Pakistan rejected “Indian claims of targeting a large terrorist camp and resultant casualties”.

First Published: Feb 26, 2019 23:32 IST