• Bid made to establish phone contact with Modi, Imran tells joint session of parliament
• Dossier on Pulwama attack received from India
• Entire nation is united, speaking with one voice: opposition leader
ISLAMABAD: In a significant de-escalation move, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday extended an olive branch to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi by announcing that the Indian pilot in Pakistan’s custody would be released on Friday (today).
“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” Mr Khan said while speaking at a joint session of both houses of the parliament on Thursday.
He said tension was in the interest of neither Pakistan nor India. “We want peace in the region,” he said but asked India not to misconstrue Pakistan’s quest for peace as its weakness. He made it clear that any misadventure from the other side would evoke a telling response.
The prime minister said the only purpose of Pakistan’s strike (across the Line of Control on Wednesday) was to demonstrate its capability and will. “We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner,” he added.
He disclosed that he had tried to establish telephonic contact with Indian premier Narendra Modi on Wednesday because “escalation is neither in our interest nor in India’s”.
Stressing that all issues should be resolved through dialogue, Prime Minister Khan regretted that despite opening of the Kartarpur corridor and other efforts and invitations for dialogue, Pakistan had received no response from India.
He said India’s attitude had indicated that before elections some big incident might take place which could be used by the Indian government in the coming elections. “Meanwhile the Pulwama incident took place and finger was pointed at Pakistan 30 minutes after the incident. If India had any evidence, it should have shared it with Pakistan,” he said.
Prime Minister Khan said that India had given Pakistan a dossier seeking the latter’s assistance in investigating the Pulwama attack. “India gave us a dossier today, two days after they attacked us and violated the United Nations charter,” he added.
“How long will Pakistan be blamed for everything that goes wrong in occupied Kashmir and asked to take action without any evidence?,” he asked.
He said it was clear from the volley of allegations from India following the Pulwama attack that they (India) would do something. “As a result of the threat, Pakistani armed forces were well prepared to counter an Indian attack and by downing two Indian fighter planes, our forces have shown that they are well capable of defending the country,” he added.
The prime minister lauded the role of the local media for responsible reporting during the current India-Pakistan tension. He, however, criticised the Indian media for creating war hysteria to further escalate the tension. “Pakistani media has shown maturity because it has witnessed bomb blasts and seen bodies of victims for over 15 years during the war on terror,” he maintained.
He said there was information that India would launch another attack on Wednesday night for which the armed forces of Pakistan were ready to give a befitting response.
Commending the armed forces, Prime Minister Khan said they had fought “war on terror” for two decades and were capable of meeting any eventuality. “We have battle-hardened armed forces which are quite capable of foiling Indian aggression,” he maintained.
He said Kashmir was the bone of contention between the two countries and now people of India should think about solution to the issue. “Due to brutalities of Indian armed forces, there is an indigenous movement of the Kashmiris. I fear that more attacks can take place in Kashmir and again Pakistan will be blamed for them,” he added.
He said there was another narrative growing in Indian that it was because of Islamic radicalism that individuals carried out suicide attacks to seek heaven. “I want to make it clear to the whole world that before 9/11, the highest number of suicide attacks came from Tamil Tigers who were Hindu. They did it not because of religion but because of desperation and as ‘a weapon of the weak’,” he said.
Countries had been ruined because of miscalculation (regarding wars) as war was not a solution, he said, adding that if India took any action, Pakistan would have to retaliate.
Prime Minister Khan also lauded the role of all parliamentarians, including the opposition, for displaying unity during these crucial times.
He called on the international community to play its role to de-escalate growing tension between Pakistan and India.
Speaking on the occasion, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif expressed support to the government and said the opposition was standing behind the government in the present situation. He said not only in the present crisis but the opposition would also back the government in its efforts to make the country economically stable and prosper.
“The entire nation is united and speaking with one voice. We should join our voices to convey a clear message to New Delhi and Modi that Pakistan is united and the entire nation is speaking with one voice and taking all steps and measures to protect Pakistan’s vital interests. “Pakistan will not tolerate any nonsense from the eastern border,” he said.
Mr Sharif lauded the armed forces for their action against Indian Air Force warplanes. “Pakistan Air Force fighters have made the nation proud,” he said and noted that it was a demonstration of the armed forces’ capability to defend the motherland.
The opposition leader warned that there could never be peace in Kashmir if occupied forces continued to oppress people. “In this situation, I believe, more Burhan Wanis will emerge,” he said.
Mr Sharif said Pakistan should continue its diplomatic support to the Kashmiris.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Raja Pervez Ashraf also supported the government in the prevailing war-like situation and endorsed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to release the Indian pilot.
He said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari wanted to attend the joint session of the parliament but he could not return to the country because of suspension of flights in Pakistan.
Senator Raja Zafarul Haq said (the then prime minister) Liaquat Ali Khan had made a pact with India in 1950 that bounded the two sides that they would not intrude into each other’s territory. He said the joint session should also give a reference of the pact in the resolution to be passed by it on Friday.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2019