Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday denied that the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad group had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir, though the group had issued a press release to this effect. The attack killed 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force on February 14. The terror outfit is led by Pakistan-based Masood Azhar.
In an interview with the BBC, Qureshi claimed that “people known to them [Jaish-e-Mohammad]” have contacted the terror group. “The people here, who are known to them, have contacted the Jaish leadership,” said Qureshi, refusing to divulge who exactly has been in touch with the group.
Responding to an observation that tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s attack in Pulwama, the minister responded, “We’re not sure of that... The leadership when contacted said ‘no’ [they had not claimed the attack]. They denied that.”
Qureshi said that the Jaish-e-Mohammad had not claimed responsibility for the attack. “They have not, there is confusion on that,” he claimed.
He also said that a war between India and Pakistan would be “suicidal”. He said, “It’s a very serious situation we’re in. We still are. It isn’t over. The Indian Air Force is fully mobilised, the Pakistan Air Force is fully mobilised. We’re on high alert.” Qureshi added that he believed a “section of the Indian media is behaving very irresponsibly” and “whipping up a war frenzy”.
Qureshi said Pakistan was studying the dossier given by India about the Pulwama attack. “If India wants to initiate a dialogue based on this dossier, we are willing to engage with them,” he said.
In another interview to BBC Urdu, Qureshi said the decision to release Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan was not taken under pressure. “We wanted to give them [India] the message that we don’t want to mistreat your citizens, we don’t want your suffering to increase,” he said. “We want peace.”
Qureshi on Thursday had confirmed to CNN that Azhar was in Pakistan. The minister on Thursday said the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief was “very unwell” and “cannot leave his house”.
Qureshi’s interview to the BBC came after Pakistan released Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured on Wednesday. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday had announced that the pilot was being released in a “gesture of peace”.
Varthaman was captured on Wednesday after his MiG 21 fighter jet was shot down after both countries engaged in aerial skirmishes.
The skirmishes came a day after the Indian Air Force struck a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan on Tuesday morning. India called the operation a “non-military, counter-terror preemptive action”, and said it had eliminated “a large number” of terror operatives.