‘JeM Does Not Exist in Pak’: Military Contradicts Foreign Minister
Pak Foreign Minister Qureshi had earlier admitted that JeM chief Masood Azhar was present in the country.
Jaish-e-Muhammed, which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, does not exist in Pakistan, the military spokesperson said, days after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi admitted that the terror outfit's chief was present in the country.
The already sour relations between India and Pakistan have worsened after Pakistan-based JeM claimed responsibility for the 14 February Pulwama attack, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Pakistan’s Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor said that the terror group’s claim over the attack had not been made “from inside Pakistan.”
In an interview to CNN, Ghafoor claimed:
“Jaish-e-Muhammed does not exist in Pakistan. It has been proscribed by the United Nations and Pakistan also. Secondly, we are not doing anything under anybody’s pressure.”
Catch all the live updates on India-Pakistan tensions here.
What Qureshi Said
This claim was in stark contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said merely five days ago.
In another interview to the same channel, Qureshi had admitted that JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar was in Pakistan. Answering a specific question on the terror head’s presence in Pakistan, Qureshi had said:
“He is in Pakistan; according to my information, he is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house.”
Answering a question on whether Pakistan would consider arresting Azhar, Qureshi said India would have to present "solid" and "inalienable" evidence that can stand in a court of law.
Were India-Pak Close to War?
In his interview to the international media channel, Ghafoor also spoke about the threat of war, the air strikes by India and the subsequent release of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
When asked if the two countries were close to war after the attack, Ghafoor told CNN:
“We were, I would say, close to war because when they [India] violated the airspace under token aggression, we went for response.”
"Along the Line of Control (LoC), we were eyeball-to-eyeball. There is presence of troops at the LoC for decades. But post the Indian aggression and our response, the safeguards have been taken by both sides," Ghafoor said on the situation along the LoC.
On IAF Air Strikes
After the Pulwama attack, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting what it said was a JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on 26 February. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated, capturing IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was later handed over to India on Friday, 1 March.
When asked about Indian claims regarding the Balakot air strike, Ghafoor said that neither was a single brick found nor were there any causalities.
“Their [Indian] claims are false,” he said.
‘Ball in India’s Court’
On Pakistan's release of Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman as a “gesture of peace,” Major General Ghafoor stated that it was up to India to move towards de-escalation.
“We feel that now the ball is in the Indian court. Should they decide to escalate more, the situation will go bad,” Ghafoor said.
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