Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor claimed on Tuesday that the Jaish-e-Mohammad extremist group does not exist in the country. Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations, the media arm of the Pakistan military, made the remark in an interview with CNN.
When asked if Pakistan was now taking action against Jaish-e-Mohammad – which has claimed responsibility for the attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force officers on February 14 – Ghafoor said: “First of all, that claim has not been made from within Pakistan, because Jaish-e-Mohammad does not exist in Pakistan, because it has been proscribed by United Nations and by Pakistan also.”
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had admitted on February 28 that Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Masood Azhar is in the country, and added that he is “very unwell” and “cannot leave his house”.
However, on March 2, he denied that the extremist group was responsible for the terror attack in Pulwama. Qureshi said that the Jaish-e-Mohammad had not claimed responsibility for the attack. “They have not, there is confusion on that,” he claimed.
Ghafoor, on Tuesday, also denied that Pakistan has been clamping down on militants due to Indian or international pressure. “We are not doing anything under anyone’s pressure,” he said. He said Islamabad will root out “anybody who operates from Pakistan... we feel is not in the interest of Pakistan”. Ghafoor said that the world should help Pakistan in getting rid of organisations like Jaish-e-Mohammad instead of blaming it.
Earlier on Tuesday, Islamabad claimed it had detained 44 members of banned organisations, including Masood Azhar’s brother Mufti Abdur Rauf, and son Hamad Azhar. It also added Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed’s organisations Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniyat to its proscribed list.
Ghafoor claimed that the Pulwama attack was a “natural reaction” to the “suppression” of the Kashmiri population by the “Indian occupation forces”. He also claimed that the United Nations report on Kashmir, which was released last year, backed his allegations.
The military officer insisted that India’s claim that it had struck a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on February 26 was false. “Not even a single brick has been found there if there was infrastructure, and not even a dead body found there,” he said. Ghafoor also pointed to the Indian government’s refusal to provide casualty numbers.
“Should they decide to escalate more, this situation will go bad,” Ghafoor warned. He said the two sides have been “eyeballs to eyeballs” in Kashmir and put the onus on India to de-escalate.