India calls Imran's bluff

Five days after the Pulwama terror attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan finally broke his silence, saying that he would act against the perpetrators of the deadly bombing if India shares “actionable intelligence” with Islamabad, but warned of retaliation if his country was attacked.

Dismissing Islamabad’s involvement in the attack that left 44 CRPF jawans dead in Kashmir on February 14, the cricketer-turned-politician claimed 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. India rejected the statements, saying that Pakistan disclaiming its link with terrorist attacks is an oft-repeated excuse by the “nerve centre” of terrorism.

Earlier striking a belligerent stand, Khan, in a video message to his nation, said that Delhi holds Pakistan responsible each time an incident happens in Kashmir and makes Pakistan its “whipping boy” again and again. Pakistan wants “stability in the region” and 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… 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,” Khan warned.

“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… It’s not in our interests that somebody from here goes out to do terrorism, nor that somebody comes here and does terrorism,” he said. Khan’s statements came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear that the Pulwama terror attack has shown that time for talks is over. Modi had earlier said that he had given a free hand to the soldiers to choose the time and place to retaliate to the Pulwama attack.

Khan, however, said that Pakistan was ready for talks with India on the issue of terrorism. “I say it clearly this is a Naya (new) Pakistan and a new mindset. India talks about including terrorism in dialogue with Pakistan. Terrorism is a big issue facing this region and we want to eliminate it.” He said he did not immediately respond to India’s allegations as he was busy with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan.

New Delhi rejected outright Khan’s offer to probe the Pulwama attack, saying it was a “lame excuse” as India’s experience of giving proof to the neighbouring country in the 26/11 and Pathankot air base attacks has been very disappointing.

In a statement, the Union Ministry of External Affairs said, “Promise of guaranteed action rings hollow, given the track record of Pakistan… Pak PM 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 ministry further regretted Khan’s insinuation that India’s response to “the terrorist attack is determined by the forthcoming general elections”. The MEA pointed out that the Pakistan PM even refused “to acknowledge the attack on our security forces in Pulwama as an act of terrorism.”

“The Pakistani Prime Minister has ignored claims made by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, as well as by the terrorist, who perpetrated this heinous crime. 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,” the statement says.

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