Pak vows to respond 'at time and place of its choosing'

Last Updated 27 February 2019, 02:12 IST

Pakistan on Tuesday strongly rejected India's claim of targeting terrorist camp in the country and causing heavy casualties even as it vowed to respond "at the time and place of its choosing" and raise the issue at the United Nations and other international forums.

At a hurriedly called special meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC)- the country's top security body - hours after India's air strikes in Balakot inside Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the armed forces and the people of his country to remain prepared for "all eventualities."

India bombed and destroyed Jaish-e-Mohammed's (JeM) biggest training camp in Balakot in Pakistan's restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control, early Tuesday, killing a "very large number" of terrorists, trainers and senior commanders, officials said in New Delhi.

The air strikes came 12 days after the JeM carried out the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.

"The forum (NSC) strongly rejected Indian claim of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and the claim of heavy casualties. Once again Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim," said a statement issued after the NSC meeting in Islamabad.

The country's top civil and military brass "concluded that India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing," it added.

It also invited the world media to see the facts on ground and proposed a visit to the site.

Citing sources, the Geo TV reported that Pakistan will raise the issue of India's "violation" of the Line of Control (LoC) at the United Nations and other international forums. The decision was taken at the NSC meeting chaired by Prime Minister Khan and attended by the top civil and military leadership, including Army chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa.

"It was decided that the matter of Indian LoC violation be immediately raised at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the United Nations and with friendly countries," sources said.

The NSC statement claimed that India's "action has been done for domestic consumption being in election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk."

To take the nation on board, the government has decided to requisition a joint session of the Parliament on Wednesday at 11 am.

Prime Minister Khan also summoned a special meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) on Wednesday.

Khan will also engage with global leadership to "expose irresponsible" Indian policy in the region, the statement added.

Later addressing a joint press conference with the ministers of defence and finance, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi asserted that Pakistan will "respond to the Indian aggression."

He announced that a three-member committee, including him, finance minister and defence minister, has been formed to approach the parliament to take the people and other parties into confidence on the evolving situation.

Responding to questions, Qureshi claimed that "multi-dimensional intrusion" was attempted by the Indian fighter jets early Tuesday. "But the intervention by Pakistani jets forced them to return back within minutes."

He dismissed the notion that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets were late in responding to the Indian attack, saying PAF jets were "ready" and "air-borne."

Flanked by Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattack and Finance Minister Asad Umar, the foreign minister dismissed Indian claim of destroying terror camps of banned JeM in Balakot. "There was no presence of any such camp(s)," he asserted.

"The Indian planes entered some three to four kilometers inside Pakistani air space and released payload when Pakistan Air Force plane scrambled," he said.

Qureshi also warned India not to underestimate Pakistan.

"Do not underestimate us. We have our own sense of timing and we will act and react. Pakistan will do what Pakistan should do," he said and added "we will not disappoint the people of Pakistan."

Describing the situation following the Indian air strikes as "serious", Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan also had telephonic conversations with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over the issue.

He also said that he has spoken to the foreign minister of the UAE and expressed Pakistan's reservations for inviting Indian foreign minister as chief of guest in the OIC meeting scheduled early next month.

Qureshi faced tough questions from journalists forcing him to end his media interaction abruptly.

As journalists posed some tough questions regarding Pakistan's failure to "give timely response to Indian jets", foreign office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal intervened and asked Qureshi to end the media briefing.

When a journalist asked the foreign minister to tell as why a "well-prepared Pakistan Air Force could not hit a single intruding Indian aircraft", Qureshi chided him, "you are a Pakistani and respect the ability of the Pakistan Air Force. Escalation was not our purpose."

When another journalist asked him to comment on India's claim that the JeM camps were destroyed by the Indian jets, Queshi taunted saying "you shouldn't put such questions."

(Published 26 February 2019, 10:19 IST)

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