Pakistan armed forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor on Tuesday said Islamabad will react differently and surprise India in retaliation to the Indian Air Force’s claim of air strikes against a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp across the Line of Control. Ghafoor accused India of lying about the strikes and the casualties.
Ghafoor said it is India’s turn to wait for Islamabad’s response. “We were ready. We responded. We denied,” Ghafoor said while denying reports that India killed “350 terrorists and trainers at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp”.
The spokesperson admitted that India entered its territory but said that Pakistan’s armed forces prevented them from doing any damage and invited anyone to visit the sites that New Delhi claims to have attacked.
This is the first air strike claimed by India across the Line of Control since 1971.
The IAF action came 12 days after a terror attack in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force. The Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Indian jets were first spotted on the radar in the Lahore-Sialkot sector, Ghafoor claimed, and Pakistan’s first combat air patrol scrambled to challenge it.
“A second formation of Indian jets then came close to Okara-Bahawalpur area of international border and the second CAP [combat air patrol mission] became airborne to counter it as per the SOP [standard operating procedure],” he said.
“Our radars then picked a heavy formation in Muzaffarabad sector approaching from Keran valley. This was a heavy team – four minutes they crossed while coming in and four minutes while going back – they did not attack,” Ghafoor added.
“When our airforce challenged them – and repulsed them effectively, though they had come in four-five nautical miles – they retreated. While leaving, they jettisoned their payload. Given the angle of exit, the payload – four bombs – fell on Jaba and they went back,” Ghafoor claimed.
“There was no strike. They went back under pressure from Pakistan airforce. When they jettisoned their payload, it fell on Balakot, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, out of Ajad Jammu and Kashmir,” Ghafoor claimed.
‘We will surprise you’
When asked how Pakistan planned to respond, Ghafoor made a pointed reference to the country’s high-level joint command that oversees its nuclear arsenal. “Tomorrow is a joint session of Parliament. After that the prime minister has called for a National Command Authority meeting,” he said. “I hope you understand what is Pakistan’s National Command Authority – and what does it constitute.”
“I had said we will retain the escalation ladder,” Ghafoor added. “We have that initiative in our hands. I said we will surprise you. Wait for that surprise.”
In response to a Pakistani journalist’s question about Islamabad’s response to the air strike that compared Indians to “drunk monkeys”, Ghafoor said, “We will shut these monkeys, but not the way they are trying to do repeatedly – not through lies. We will do it. We will let the people of Pakistan and the world know.”
Ghafoor claimed that bad weather prevented Pakistan army from taking the assembled media personnel to the site of the attack, but said anyone was free to visit and investigate the site. “All the ambassadors, defence attaches, military observers... we will even allow civilians and military personnel from India, they can come through authorised entry in Pakistan, see it for yourself and go and tell your prime minister: Where is that impact?”
“Already, some of the media is there. When you go there tomorrow and see for yourself, do check,” Ghafoor said. “Where are the 350 terrorists killed? Where is the building they have demolished? Even go and check on Google if the places where there are now craters, whether the two-three day old imagery shows any buildings.”
“The local channels have reached there,” Ghafoor claimed. “Some of them have also shown some of the things – there is not even a single brick in the form of debris. They are claiming 350 [deaths], if there were even 10, their dead bodies would have been there.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday also said Islamabad will respond to India’s “uncalled for aggression” at a time and place of its choosing. Qureshi was addressing a joint press conference in Islamabad alongside Finance Minister Asad Umar and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak.
The foreign minister said, “Once again the Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” the statement said while adding that the Indian government had taken the action “for domestic consumption” because of the upcoming elections.
Qureshi quoted a National Security Committee statement which said that Prime Minister Imran Khan will engage with “global leadership to expose irresponsible Indian policy in the region”.
Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan warned India against challenging Islamabad, adding that the country is “fully prepared to respond” to any misadventure. “Once again Indian government has resorted to a self serving, reckless and fictitious claim,” Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the country’s ruling party, had said.