Imran seeks evidence on Kashmir attack, India dubs it 'lame excuse'

ISLAMABAD / NEW DELHI:

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday denied his country's involvement in the Kashmir suicide bombing and sought "actionable intelligence" but New Delhi asked Islamabad to "stop misleading the world" and take "credible action" against terrorist masterminds operating from its soil.

In a nationwide broadcast, Khan refused to acknowledge that the February 14 Pulwama attack that killed 40 CRPF troopers and was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) was an act of terrorism and also warned India against waging war against Pakistan. 

"If you (Indian government) think you will attack us and we will not think of retaliating, we will retaliate. We will have no other option... We all know starting a war is in the hands of humans, where it will lead us, only God knows," a sombre looking Khan said.

He said India blamed Pakistan for the bombing without any evidence but added that Islamabad was ready to probe it and take action against guilty Pakistanis if evidence was shared with it.

"Pakistan is ready to investigate the attack and act if India provides actionable intelligence. Not because we are under pressure but because it is our policy.

"India accused Pakistan without any evidence and without thinking how this (attack) would benefit us... This is Naya Pakistan. We have a new thought... Why would Pakistan do it when it's moving towards stability?" Khan asked.

"If someone is using Pakistan's soil (to carry out terror attacks elsewhere), he is our enemy. It is against our interests."

Denying Islamabad's involvement in the bombing, Khan said: "India is in an election year and we know that speaking of attacking Pakistan is a popular move."

In response, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs termed as a "lame excuse" Khan's demand for "actionable intelligence". It asked Pakistan to take "credible and visible action" against the perpetrators of the bombing and other terrorists and terror groups operating from areas under its control.

Simultaneously, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that Indian armed forces were ready to retaliate "against the enemy squarely".

The MEA statement said Khan ignored claims by the JeM as well as by the dead terrorist who committed the heinous crime. 

"It is a well-known fact that the JeM and its leader Masood Azhar are based in Pakistan. These should be sufficient proof for Pakistan to take action. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has offered to investigate the matter if India provides proof. This is a lame excuse," MEA said.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said disclaiming any link between the "terrorist attack and Pakistan is an oft-repeated excuse by Islamabad.

"We are not surprised that the Prime Minister of Pakistan refuses to acknowledge the attack on our security forces in Pulwama as an act of terrorism... He has neither chosen to condemn this heinous act nor condoled with the bereaved families," Kumar added. 

The MEA said it was regrettable that the Pakistani leader insinuated that India's response to the attack was determined by the forthcoming general election. 

"India's democracy is a model for the world which Pakistan would never understand. Pakistan should stop misleading the international community and take credible and visible action against the perpetrators of Pulwama terrorist attack and other terrorists and terror groups operating from areas under their control," the MEA said.

It said that after the Mumbai terror attack of 26/11 which killed 166 Indians and foreigners, proof was provided to Pakistan. 

"Despite this, the case has not progressed for the last more than 10 years. Likewise, on the terror attack on Pathankot airbase, there has been no progress. Promises of 'guaranteed action' ring hollow given the track record of Pakistan."

Referring to Khan's remarks about Naya Pakistan, New Delhi said "in this `Naya Pakistan' Ministers of the current government publicly share platforms with terrorists like Hafiz Saeed who have been proscribed by the UN".

India said it had repeatedly stated that it was ready to engage in a comprehensive bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.

"Pakistan claims to be the greatest victim of terrorism. This is far from truth. The international community is well acquainted with the reality that Pakistan is the nerve centre of terrorism," the Indian statement said.