Prime Minister Imran Khan announced during a joint session of parliament on Thursday that Pakistan would be returning the Indian Air Force pilot captured after his jet was shot down for violating Pakistani airspace.
This is a peace gesture, he told parliamentarians. During his speech, the premier also said that there was a threat of a missile being launched at Pakistan last night (Wednesday night) but that threat was averted. Don’t force us to respond, he told Indian PM Narendra Modi. We are both nuclear-armed countries that cannot afford this war, he said.
He thanked the opposition for their support and said in the face of an external threat, our nation is standing united. On July 26, before being sworn in as prime minister, I said that if India takes one step forward, Pakistan would take two, he said. This is because the Subcontinent has a lot of poverty, said PM Khan.
My vision is that a nation cannot prosper when some people are rich and there is a sea of poverty, he said. We want peace and must sort out our problems via dialogue, he said.
He said he has made many offers to India to sit down to discuss the conflict between the two countries but they have been rebuffed. On July 26 I made an offer and wrote an letter to PM Modi, saying our foreign ministers should meet at the UN but we did not get a good response, he said. We realised this was because India’s elections were coming up, he said.
Their election campaigns do not feature good relations with Pakistan, he said, so the government decided to renew its offers after their elections, said PM Khan. There was an opportunity with the opening of the Kartarpur corridor but we realised it wasn’t going forward the way we wanted, he said. We feared that before the election there would be some incident that would then be exploited for the polls, he explained.
“Then, Pulwama happened.”
I am not saying that India had a hand in it, not all, clarified the PM. But not even 30 minutes passed after the Pulwama attack before they pointed a finger at Pakistan, he said. At the time we had an important visit from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to handle, one that was expected to bring in investment, he said. What country would sabotage an event like this with an act of terrorism, he asked.
“What were we to gain from this?” he asked. We told them immediately, that if they gave us actionable intelligence, we would act on it, he said.
All political parties in Pakistan have signed the National Action Plan, under which, among other things, we agreed that no armed militia would be allowed to operate in the country, he reminded the parliamentarians. We said Pakistan would not let anyone use our soil for terrorism, he added. We were also taking action in compliance with the FATF’s directives to get off its grey list, said PM Khan. That is why we told India that if they gave us evidence, we would act, he said.
“Instead, they created war hysteria,” said the premier. He thanked the Pakistani media for not engaging in war mongering, and said it was perhaps because Pakistan had seen enough war and knows the gravity of it.
“Sadly, in India war hysteria was created and we thought something would happen in Pakistan,” he said. That is why I said that if India acts, Pakistan will not hesitate to respond, he said. No sovereign country allows action against it like this, he said.
Today, India finally gave us the dossier on the Pulwama incident, he said. Two days ago, they attacked Pakistan, committed an act of aggression against us in violation of the UN charter and international law, said PM Khan.
If they had given the dossier first and Pakistan hadn’t acted, then it would have been different. But their election atmosphere created a need for this, he said.
On one side, Pakistan was telling India it would cooperate in the investigation and on the other is the Afghan issue. This is the first time there is a chance of resolving the Afghan issue via dialogue, and we were trying to facilitate those those, while there threats along our other border, he said.
Discussing the Indian attack on February 26, the premier said he found out about it at around 3:30am and discussed the country’s response with the chiefs of army and air staff. “We didn’t know the extent of the casualties or if there had even been any. We knew they dropped a bomb but didn’t know about the casualties, so we decided to do nothing. We knew people would be upset but we decided that if there were no casualties and we caused casualties when we retaliated, then it would result in escalation,” said the premier.
We are a responsible state and took no action until the next day, when we only acted to show India that we have the capability and will to act, he said. “We wanted to tell them that if they can do it, so can we.”
And there was no collateral damage and no targets hit in the action we took, he said. However, after our jets were returning, two Indian jets tried to intercept them and were shot down, he said.
“I tried to call PM Modi yesterday because i wanted to clear up that we don’t want escalation,” he said. We aren’t scared, he clarified. Our armed forces have been engaged in warfare for the past 10 to 12 years and are battle hardened, he said. However, a conflict is not in our interest, nor is it in India’s, he said.
We sent a message and our foreign minister spoke to other countries’ foreign ministers to tell everyone that our efforts are for deescalation, he said.
But what is this issue all about, he asked. Well, it’s about Kashmir.
Today, I ask the Indian people, should you not question the tactics used against the people in Kashmir, he questioned. He said they should question the four years of violence and cruelty, the oppression and the attempts to subdue the people of Kashmir.
“One Indian politician said that you can’t jail an idea. This is an indigenous movement in Kashmir and the more oppression and cruelty India perpetuates, the stronger the movement gets,” he said. Twenty years ago, when I went to an Indian conclave, I saw that the Kashmiri leaders were with India, he said. Now, no leaders support India’s tactics in the region, he said.
There is immense pressure from the Kashmiri public, he said. “They don’t want to hear anything other than freedom.”
“The people of India, instead of pointing fingers at us without evidence, shouldn’t you ask why a 19-year-old boy from Kashmir would make himself into a human bomb to hurt your security forces?” asked PM Khan. If you think that these oppressive tactics will change people’s minds in Kashmir, well it hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now, he said. The premier called for introspection in India and asked them to do away with their one-dimensional approach. It’s like Einstein’s theory of madness, you do the same thing again and again and again and keep expecting a different result, he said.
There is a debate needed in India about Kashmir, he said. I fear that their reaction to terrorism will always be to blame us, he said.
I have heard that some people in India are blaming the attack on Islamic radicalism, he said. They are linking suicide bombings to Islam, but let me remind the world that before 9/11, the group that had carried out the most suicide attacks was the Tamil Tigers and they were Hindu, he said. But this was not because of their religion, he said. Suicide bombing is a sign of desperation and a weapon of the weak, he said.
I say this again, I have friends in India, courtesy of my cricket days, and I know there are people there who aren’t happy with the current government’s tactics and war mongering, he said. People are scared because of the war hysteria being created in the country, he said. I wish their media has seen what ours has, if they had they wouldn’t do this war mongering, said the prime minister. “No one wins in war.”
He reiterated that two nuclear armed countries shouldn’t even think of war. There is a fer of miscalculation, he said. History shows us that countries have been destroyed because of miscalculation, he added. In Afghanistan there was a massive miscalculation and 17 years later they are realising that dialogue is the solution, he said. “War is not a solution to our problems,” he said.
Stop war mongering, he said. “If India takes action , we will be compelled to as well. Where will we go from there?” he asked.
I have heard that some Indian politicians are talking about nuclear blackmail and I don’t understand it, he said. Because we have nuclear weapons, that’s why were doing this, he asked.
“Mr Speaker and my fellow parliamentarians, I want to say this in front of everyone. We want peace. Where we’re standing, we only want peace and stability in this region so we can do on our actual job — poverty alleviation that will lead to investment and wealth creation in our country,” he said.
This tension doesn’t benefit Pakistan or India, said the premier. I tried yesterday to talk to PM Modi for deescalation, he said.
Today I will speak to the Turkish president and ask him to also help in this matter, he said.
However, he cautioned everyone to not mistake the country’s deescalation efforts for weakness.
We are a country that has had two similar yet different kings, he said, giving the example of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and Tipu Sultan. When faced with a choice of becoming a slave or death, Zafar chose slavery, he said. Tipu Sultan also had to face this choice and he chose to fight. This country’s hero is Tipu Sultan, he said, to the roars of parliamentarians. If you push any country, not just Pakistan, to a stage where they have to make this decision , any country would fight for freedom, he said.
“Today, my message to Modi is this, don’t push anyone to that limit. It can go forward and I know how prepared we are. Last night, there were fears of a missile attack on Pakistan and I know how prepared our army was for retaliation. Because I know this, I urge you not to take it further. Pakistan will be compelled to retaliate and with the weapons we have, we should not think like this,” said the premier. He ended his speech with the news that Pakistan would be releasing the Indian pilot as a gesture of peace.