Pakistan Caught Unawares

As usual, Pakistan has once again tried to be in the denial mode by attempting to underplay the Indian Air Force strike at the biggest terrorist training camp of Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot area of Kyber PakhtunKhwa province of Pakistan. A large number of terrorists in the camp were targeted in the pre-dawn swoop. The facility at Balakot was headed by Yousuf Azhar, brother-in-law of JeM Chief Masood Azhar. There were no civilian casualties and the Indian aircrafts returned without any damage. Pakistan is now battling to prevent its people from believing that it was taken unawares, a second time after the surgical strikes on 29th September 2016.

As a face saving measure and to evoke international support understandably, Islamabad has termed the strike as “uncalled for aggression” and rejected the Indian claim of targeting terrorist camp resulting in heavy casualties. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that domestic and international media is being taken to the site to show them that nothing has happened on the ground. He also said that   Pakistan shall respond at the “time and place” of its choosing. Earlier, chief of Inter-services Public Relations Major General Asif Gafoor had said that Indian Military planes intruded from Muzaffarabad sector but because of the timely and effective response from Pakistan the aircraft released payload in haste while escaping, which fell near Balakot. Pakistan Prime minister Imran Khan has now decided to engage with the global leadership to expose what he calls irresponsible Indian policy in the region. He is also said to have spoken to the Crown Princes of UAE and Saudi Arabia in the hope that they will side with Pakistan at this critical hour.

All these utterances by the Pakistani political and military leadership only point to the fact that Pakistan has no intention to rein-in the terrorist activities emanating from its soil.

In his conversation with US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, Mr. Qureshi accused India of putting regional peace and security at risk for political gains. India has made it clear that the action was taken after credible intelligence reports that Jaish-e Mohammad was contemplating another suicide attack in India. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhle said in New Delhi that the “pre-emptive strike” therefore became absolutely necessary.

Pakistan has responded by resorting to heavy mortar fire on the LoC and the international border which is being responded to adequately. Pakistan has banned Indian advertisements in Pakistani media and exhibition of Indian movies. There were rumblings in Pakistan’s National Assembly too; following which the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called upon both countries to exercise restraint.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised the nation that the Pulwama attack would be avenged and the sacrifices of our jawans (soldiers) would not go in vain. He also gave a free hand to the Indian security forces to deal with the situation. The core problem is the support the Pakistan establishment has been extending to the terrorists in the country.  Despite these being banned by the United Nations and several countries of the world, Pakistan has been taking no action against them.

Prime Minister Modi had made it known to Pakistani leaders that India is interested in peace and friendship with it. But what India got in return is common knowledge. The Balakot operation had thus become inevitable in the fight against terrorism.

As long as Pakistan treats terrorists as national assets and uses them for launching attacks in India, it will be naive to expect normalization of relations between the two countries. The ball is in Pakistan’s court and if it really wants to establish good relations with India it will have to act firmly against the terrorists. World leaders are urging Pakistan to take urgent and meaningful action against terrorist groups on its soil. If Pakistan fails to do so, India will have to perform its’ duty in the interest of long term regional and global peace.

Script: Ashok Handoo, Political Commentator