In a video message, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said Islamabad will take action if Delhi shares any actionable evidence concerning last week’s suicide bombing in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area which had targeted Indian paramilitary soldiers.
While offering cooperation and another chance at a dialogue over the Kashmir issue, the premier also warned India against any act of aggression, saying Pakistan will not hesitate in retaliating to a provocation.
However, he made it clear that he hopes better sense will prevail.
The premier explained he had wanted to respond to the attack right away because Delhi had accused Pakistan of having a hand in the attack, “but we had a very important visit from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, we had an investment conference happening that we had been preparing for for a long time,” he explained.
“Therefore, I decided not to respond then, because the attention would have been diverted away from the visit and onto this issue.”
“This is why I am responding [now], now that the crown prince has left. And this [message] is for the Indian government,” he said.
“First of all, you accused Pakistan. [There was] no evidence. You never thought: ‘What would be in it for Pakistan?’,” he said. “Would even a fool do such a thing to sabotage his own conference? And even if he [the crown prince] had not been visiting, what benefit would Pakistan get from it [the Pulwama attack]?”
“Why would Pakistan, at this stage, when it is moving towards stability ─ we have fought a war against terrorism for 15 years, 70,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives, terrorism is receding, peace and stability are returning ─ what benefit would we get from it [the Pulwama attack]?” he asked.
“You wish to remain stuck in the past, and each time something happens in Kashmir, you want to hold Pakistan responsible. Instead of trying to resolve the Kashmir issue, start a dialogue or move forward, you want to make Islamabad your whipping boy again and again,” the prime minister said, addressing Delhi.
“I am telling you clearly, this is naya Pakistan. It is a new mindset, a new way of thinking. We believe that it is in our interest that our soil is not used for carrying out terrorist attacks in other countries, nor do we want outsiders to come and carry out terror attacks here. We desire stability,” he asserted.
“Today, I would like to make the Indian government an offer. Any sort of investigation you wish carried out regarding this incident about the involvement of any Pakistani, we are ready [for it].
“If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani is involved, give it to us. I guarantee you that we will take action ─ not because we are under pressure, but because they [any individuals found involved] are acting as enemies of Pakistan.”
“If someone is using Pakistan’s soil [to carry out terror attacks elsewhere], it is [akin to] enmity with us. It is against our interests.”
The prime minister added that whenever Pakistan tries to initiate dialogue with India, Delhi’s precondition is that terrorism must be talked about.
“We are ready to talk about terrorism. Terrorism is a regional issue […] We want terrorism in the region to end,” he stated. “Pakistan has been the worst affected by terrorism […] Therefore, we are ready to talk with you.”
“[However,] in India, there needs to be a new way of thinking, some introspection: what is the reason these Kashmiri youths have gotten to the point where they have no fear of death anymore? There must be some reason,” he said.
“Do you think that this one-dimensional oppression, cruelty, using military to cause issues ─ if they haven’t been successful till today, do you think they will be successful in the future?” the prime minister asked, referring to the oppressive tactics used by the Indian government to suppress the local population in occupied Kashmir.
“If today in Afghanistan, after 17 years, the entire world has accepted that there is no military solution and that the issue can only be resolved through dialogue, shouldn’t there be discussion about this in India?” he asked.
“We are hearing the voices in India that say ‘Pakistan must be taught a lesson’, ‘Revenge must be taken from Pakistan’, ‘There should be a strike’ … First of all, what law gives any country to become judge, jury and executioner?” he asked. “What sort of [sense of] justice is this?”
“Secondly, you are facing an election year. And we believe that during the election, [you think] you will get a big boost if you ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’,” he said.
“If you think that if you can carry out any kind of attack on Pakistan, Pakistan will not just think about retaliating, we will retaliate. There will be no way to respond other than to retaliate,” the prime minister warned.
“And after that, where does the matter go? We all know that starting a war is easy. [But] starting a war may be in our hands, ending it won’t be. Where it [the tide of war] will go, God knows. That’s why I hope that better sense will prevail.”
“This issue will only be resolved through dialogue and talks,” he concluded.