Pak Says Will Retaliate to Air Strikes, Calls It ‘Poll Propaganda’
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday, 26 February, said that Pakistan will respond to the air strikes conducted by the Indian Air Force across the LoC. He said there were no JeM camps in the area where India conducted the strikes and that the claims are India’s propaganda ahead of the general elections in the country.
Qureshi also said that Pakistan will take international media to the site of the air strikes.
“Pakistan will take international media to the area of strikes, helicopters are being readied, right now weather is bad, will fly when weather permits,” he said.
Qureshi was addressing the Pakistan media along with the country’s Defence Minister Pervez Khattak.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tweeted that India’s claim of targeting the terrorist camp near Balkot is “self-serving, reckless and fictitious.”
A special meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee was convened by the Imran Khan government earlier in the day, following which the PTI handle tweeted that the country would respond at “time and place of its choosing.”
PTI’s official handle also added that the “action” was taken for domestic consumption, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The Pakistan government has also reportedly decided to call for a joint session of the Parliament.
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‘Pakistan Holds Right to Retaliate’
Qureshi had earlier said that the strikes conducted by Indian Air Force was a “grave aggression” shown by India and that the country violated the Line of Control (LoC).
“India has conducted a unlawful attack against Pakistan today. I will call it ‘grave aggression’. We have been warning India and the world that something like this would happen. But still they conducted an unlawful attack. They violated the LoC. I will call it a violation of the LoC. Pakistan holds the right to retaliate in an appropriate manner and a right to self-defence,” he said.
Preemptive Strike on JeM by India
India conducted a major preemptive strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp early Tuesday, killing a "very large number" of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.
He said the "intelligence-led operation" on the Pakistan-based terror group's biggest training camp in Balakot became "absolutely necessary" as it was planning more suicide attacks in India. JeM claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama attack on a CRPF convoy in which 40 soldiers were killed.
It was not clear if the strike was on Balakot in Pakistan occupied Kashmir or Balakot in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Gokhale also did not give details of how the attacks were carried out or confirm earlier reports by sources that Mirage aircraft were used to drop bombs in the operation.
In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became "absolutely necessary", the foreign secretary said.
"In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated," he added.
The facility at Balakot, located in a thick forest on a hilltop far away from civilian presence, was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, alias Ustad Ghouri, the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar, he said, reading out from a statement.
The statement did not say if Yousuf Azhar was among those killed.
"The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism," the foreign secretary said.
‘India Expects Pak to Dismantle Terror Camps’
India, Gokhale said, expects Pakistan to dismantle all terror camps, including those of the JeM.
Earlier in the day, government sources said Mirage 2000 combat jets of the Indian Air Force bombed terror camps at multiple locations across the Line of Control in the Pakistani side. They said jets pounded the camps in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti.
However, there was no independent confirmation of these reports and Gokhale made it clear that only one camp was struck in Balakot without mentioning the Mirage 2000 jets.