Pakistan says no damage, wait for response

The Asian Age With Agency Inputs  | Shafqat Ali With Agency Inputs

World, Asia

The spokesman also rejected the Indian claim about targeting any infrastructure and said their claim of 350 dead is also “false”.

Pak army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor

Islamabad: Vowing a suitable response, Pakistan on Tuesday described the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) strike in Balkot as an “aggression” and violation of the LoC, while confirming that Indian fighter jets dropped “four bombs” during an operation. Islamabad downplayed the IAF strike’s significance, saying the Indian attack was repulsed and while going back the aircraft “jettisoned their payload”

Warning that Pakistan will hit back at the “time of its own choosing”, Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan will “surprise” India with its response that will be in all domains including “diplomatic, political and military”.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan told the Army and the people that get ready for any eventuality. Now it is time for India to wait for our response. We have decided. Wait for it,” Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said. A joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament will on Wednesday discuss the tension with India.

Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said that Indian aircraft intruded from Muzafarabad sector. “Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force, IAF jets released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage,” he said.

He said that he was ready to take the media to the place where payload fell to show that there was no damage done, but cancelled the trip due to bad weather. He added that apart from the media, defence attaches can also go.

The spokesman also rejected the Indian claim about targeting any infrastructure and said their claim of 350 dead is also “false”.

A special meeting of the National Security Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Khan, discussed the India’s early morning strike.

“The forum 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. This action has been done for domestic consumption being in election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk. The claimed area of strike is open for the world to see the facts on ground. For this domestic and international media is being taken to the impact site,” said an official statement issued after the meeting.

The meeting was attended by ministers of foreign affairs, defence, finance, chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said India has committed “aggression” by violating the LoC and Islamabad has the “right to respond”.

“First, they committed aggression against Pakistan today. It is a violation of the LoC. I consider it a violation of the LoC, and Pakistan has the right to give a suitable response in self-defence,” he told reporters after an “emergency meeting” with high-level officials at the foreign office.

Mr Qureshi said he has spoken to his UAE counterpart and “expressed reservations” about invitation to India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting scheduled in Abu Dhabi from March 1 to 2.

“Aggression has been done against a founding member of the OIC,” he said.

The OIC is a grouping of 57 countries, majority of which are Muslim majority. It has usually been supportive of Pakistan and, often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan also plans to raise the issue of India’s “violation” of the LoC at the United Nations and other international forums, media reports said, quoting sources.

A section of Pakistani media reported that the Indian government had staged a symbolic intrusion due to domestic pressure. Most TV channels broadcast throughout the day that Indian jets violated the LoC, but did not talk much about the Indian claim of having destroyed JeM camps in the Balakot valley.

Earlier, Maj. Gen. Ghafoor claimed that India failed to surprise Pakistan.

“We were ready and not surprised. I said we will surprise you and wait for the surprise. (Our) response will come and it will be different. Our response will be in all domains including diplomatic, political and military,” the General added.

He claimed that the Indian planes were in Pakistan’s airspace for “just four minutes” and went back when challenged by the Pakistani aircraft.

Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said that Indian jets first tried to enter Lahore-Sialkot sector, while another formation of jets came close to Okara-Bahawalpur area of international border but found Pakistan Air Force ready and went back.

“Then a third formation was picked in Muzaffarabad sector which was heavier... It was repulsed, but while going back they jettisoned their payload and four bombs fell in Jabba, near the town of Balakot, causing no casualties or damage,” he said.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been escalated since a suicide attack in Kashmir killed over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers. The attack saw explosives packed inside a van rip through a bus in a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying some 2,500 members of the paramilitary CRPF.

On Tuesday, Pakistan also summoned the Indian acting high commissioner and strongly condemned the “Indian violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“Baseless, reprehensible Indian claims of targeting a large terrorist camp and resultant causalities to placate Indian domestic audience and electioneering were strongly rebutted,” said and official aware of the meeting attended by the Indian diplomat.