Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in an interview with CNN, said that if India has “solid evidence” regarding Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar’s involvement in the Pulwama attack on February 14, it should share that with Pakistan “so we can convince the judiciary and the people”.
When asked how he would respond to Indian concerns regarding Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), he said: “My message to the Indians is that this is a new government that has a new mindset. We want to live in peace. We have a people-centric agenda. We want to concentrate on fixing the economy. We want to improve governance and eradicate corruption in Pakistan. That’s the mandate given to us.
“We want to see peace and reconciliation in Pakistan and the region. The western front is consuming us; we do not want [escalation on the] eastern front. The policy of our government is that we will not allow our soil to be used by any organisation or individual for terrorism against anyone, and that includes India.”
Qureshi was asked what he thought of India’s desire to have the JeM’s head’s name on the international terrorist list. “We will be open to any step that leads to de-escalation. If they have good, solid evidence, please sit and talk, initiate a dialogue and we will show reasonableness,” he said.
When asked if Azhar was present in Pakistan and would the government go after him, Qureshi replied: “He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is very unwell, to the extent that he cannot leave his house.”
He urged India to share with Pakistan any evidence that “is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan”.
Regarding Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to release the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, Qureshi said: “This was a goodwill gesture and we feel that this should be an expression of Pakistan’s willingness to de-escalate.”
When asked how serious the conflict between Pakistan and India — two nuclear-armed countries — was, the foreign minister said: “The situation certainly was serious when India attacked Pakistan, when they violated our airspace and dropped bombs, when they violated the UN charter and international law. This was serious. The Indian and Pakistani air forces are fully mobilised … how dangerous can it be?”
Upon being asked if he envisioned an all-out Pak-India war, Qureshi said: “I hope not. That would be a mutual suicide. Pakistan never wants to escalate or want to be in a hostile position. From day one, Prime Minister Imran Khan offered that if you take one step towards peace we will take two. He wrote to the Indian prime minister, saying ‘let the two foreign ministers meet on the sidelines in New York so that they can chart a way forward’.
“When this Pulwama tragic incident took place and I landed in Munich for the security conference and I learned about it, what did I do? I condemned, condoled and then the prime minister made a reasonable offer that ‘if you have actionable evidence, share it with us and we will honestly, sincerely investigate.’
“I wish India, instead of attacking Pakistan, had shared earlier the dossier, which we received today.”
The tensions between the two countries have escalated following the Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir, which killed 49 CRPF personnel and which was claimed by militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Following the attack, the Foreign Secretary of India had said on Tuesday that they have ‘struck the biggest camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot in the pre-dawn ‘preemptive strikes across the Line of Control’.
“India struck the biggest camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot and a large number of terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis planning terror strikes were eliminated,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said.
Gokhale had added that India’s “non-military preemptive action” was specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp.
“Credible intelligence was received that Jaish-e-Mohammed was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country and Fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose,” he had said.
“India has given proof many times seeking action against Jaish-e-Mohammed and others at terror camps so big, that they can train hundreds of jihadis and terrorists at any given time. But due to Pakistan’s inaction, this step was necessary and had to be taken,” he had said.
Earlier, India has said that they carried out a pre-dawn strike on a ‘militant camp’ across the Line of Control soon after Pakistan army said that Indian fighter jets were forced to leave after they crossed the LoC in Muzaffarabad sector.
According to reports, the strike was carried out at around 3:30 Tuesday morning by 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. The aircraft dropped, according to reports, ‘1,000 kg laser-guided bombs on a major militant camp across the Line of Control, completely destroying it’, news agency ANI reported, quoting Air Force sources.
Earlier, Pakistan Army claimed that the Indian military planes “intruded” from the Muzaffarabad sector but were forced to go back after Pakistan Air Force “immediately scrambled”.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan during a joint Parliament session on Thursday said that as a gesture of peace, they would return captured Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan to India.
He further stated that he was ready for talks with India and de-escalate tensions between both countries.
During the session, he said that the reason of escalation between India and Pakistan was the Kashmir dispute.
“All of this is because of Kashmir,” PM Khan said while addressing a joint session of parliament.
“I want to ask the Indian public about all that has happened over the past 4 years. There is an indigenous movement in Kashmir. At one point, Kashmiri leaders had not wanted separation, but because of Indian brutality, today all they demand is independence.”