Pakistan on Tuesday termed India’s cross-border air strike “uncalled for aggression” and vowed retaliation.
“India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing,” Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) said in a statement.
Prime Minister Imran Khan convened an emergency meeting of the NSC hours after Indian aircraft carried out the strike. The meeting was attended by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar and the military top brass, including Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The NSC called the Indian government’s claims of targeting a militant camp in Balakot “self-serving, reckless and fictitious.”
Mr. Qureshi also held a press conference, along with the Defence and Finance Ministers in Islamabad. After reading out the NSC statement, Mr. Qureshi said the government would call a joint session of Parliament to discuss the issue. A three-member committee has been formed to take Parliament into confidence regarding the developing situation.
He said local and foreign journalists would be taken to the site of the attack [this visit was later postponed “due to bad weather”] “so that the media personnel can decide for themselves about the veracity of Indian claims”. Mr. Qureshi added that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office were also reaching out to international leaders.
Nuclear body meet
Prime Minister Khan has called a meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) — Pakistan’s nuclear body —on Wednesday.
Following the ministers’ press conference, Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor also addressed the media in Islamabad. He denied Indian claims and challenged Indian jets to come and spend 21 minutes in Pakistani airspace. “I said that we will surprise you. Wait for that surprise. I said that our response will be different. The response will come differently. We are a democracy. You have proved that you are not a democracy,” said Gen. Ghafoor.
In a reference to Wednesday’s NCA meeting, he told reporters: “I hope you know what NCA means and what it does.”
Opposition parties and their leadership have closed ranks behind the government. Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif warned the Indian leadership to come to its senses and not to mistake Pakistan’s stance of restraint for weakness.
Maryam Nawaz tweeted that when she met her father, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in jail, “he was deeply concerned over & strongly condemned the Indian aircraft intrusion across LOC”.
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said while the whole nation will stand united with whatever decision is taken, it is important for Pakistan to be cautious. “We don’t want to play into [Narendra] Modi’s hands. Proponents of peace in the region on both sides of the border must join in calling for cooler heads to prevail. The innocent people of India and Pakistan will be the collateral damage to any misadventure,” he said.
Despite this solidarity, former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif criticised the government for not coming to the National Assembly to discuss the current crisis. He tweeted that at a time when the NA session was in progress, the government preferred to speak to the media and in effect bypassed Parliament by not giving it its due respect. Reportedly, the Joint Session of Parliament will now be on Thursday.