Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that there’s some confusion regarding the involvement of Jaish-e-Muhammad in the Pulwama attack.
“We’re not sure if Jaish-e-Muhammad is involved in the attack,” he said. He was speaking to BBC correspondent Secunder Kermani on Friday.
Over 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force soldiers were killed in Indian-Administered Kashmir on February 14 when a suicide bomber targeted a group of soldiers. It was the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in the valley since 2002.
Indian media reported that Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Qureshi told the BBC that when the group’s leadership was contacted by the people who [are] known to them, they denied it.
When the host said that the group had issued a press release claiming responsibility for the attack, Qureshi said, “There are conflict[ing] reports.”
Responding to a question that there’s a perception that Pakistan has never cracked down on militant groups that target India, the foreign minister replied, “We have proscribed JuD and the so-called nerve centre of Jaish-e-Mohammad in Bahawalpur has been taken over by the Punjab government.”
He said that the world and India have been talking about the madrassa and calling it a training camp. “The media was taken there and what they saw is in front of you.”
He was also asked whether there is a madrassa run by the Jaish-e-Muhammad near the site of the India air strike. “India claimed that they hit three training camps, where are they? They claimed that they killed 350 terrorists, where are the bodies?” he demanded. He also said that not even people in India believed that IAF aircraft stayed in Pakistani airspace for 25 minutes.
Qureshi said that the PTI government policy is very clear. “We will not allow Pakistani soil to be used by any group for terrorist activity against anyone, including India.”
When the foreign minister was asked if Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar is under any kind of active investigation, he said, “We are willing to listen to any reasonable proposal. When action is taken against any individual, no matter who he is, you have to prove it in a court of law.”
He said that if India has something, they should share it with Pakistan. “If you do, then we can articulate the case in court and justify action against that individual or that organization to the people of Pakistan,” he added.
Pakistan ready to engage with India on the basis of Indian dossier
The foreign minister said that Pakistan is ready to start dialogue on the basis of the Indian dossier. Pakistan confirmed that it received a dossier from India on the Pulwama attack on Thursday.
“Pakistan is studying the dossier handed over by the Indian government and if India wants to initiate dialogue based on that dossier, we are willing to engage with them,” Qureshi said.
Talking about other options for talks, the minister said that the Russian foreign minister has offered to mediate between the two countries. “He has said that they are willing to provide a platform for talks between India and Pakistan. I’m saying Pakistan is ready for that. Indians can make their own decision.”
Qureshi said that the UN Secretary General António Guterres has also offered his offices for deescalation. He also thanked US President Donald Trump for his ‘positive statement’. The British foreign secretary, China and EU have also come forward, he said, adding that Pakistan wants peace in the region.
Referring to negotiations between the Afghan Taliban, the US and the Ashraf Ghani-led Afghan government, he said, “[We want to] go back to the western front where negotiations are at a very delicate stage. We are very close to peace after 17 years. Warring factions are sitting at the negotiating table. This is a historic opportunity.”
He said that the diversion on the eastern border is a distraction for Pakistan.
War between India and Pakistan will be suicide
Qureshi said that Pakistan never wanted the crisis to take place. “If India had listened carefully to what Pakistan was saying, this wouldn’t have happened.”
We had asked India to share evidence with us and told them that Pakistan was willing to cooperate, he said. “Two neighbours, two atomic powers, can they afford to go to war?” he asked. “It’s suicidal.”
The minister said that his government “made all the right overtures, but he [Modi] seems to be under lot of domestic pressure”. Pakistan hasn’t received any positive response, he added.
Threat is not over yet
On the possibility of recent skirmishes between India and Pakistan turning into a full blown war, Qureshi said, “It isn’t over. The IAF and PAF are fully mobilized, there are high alerts. No flights are coming in or going out. It’s a serious situation and I hope the Indians realize that.”
He said that Pakistan wants peace and stability in the region. There’s a new government in Pakistan, with a new mindset, the minister said.
Acknowledging that there are issues between India and Pakistan that need to resolved, the minister asked how the two countries intend to resolve their issues. “By firing missiles at each other?” he asked. The issues can be resolved “by talking, sharing evidence and finding a way forward,” he said.
Unfortunately, a section of the Indian media is behaving very irresponsibly, the minister. “They are whipping up war-frenzy.” He said that it is not helping the region. “They [media] are playing a very dangerous game.”