Foreign journalists given access to madressah near site of Balakot strike

Published April 10, 2019
A delegation of international journalists, mostly based in India, as well as ambassadors and defence attachés visited the site of the Balakot air strikes. ─ ISPR
A delegation of international journalists, mostly based in India, as well as ambassadors and defence attachés visited the site of the Balakot air strikes. ─ ISPR

A group of international journalists, mostly based in India, as well as the ambassadors and defence attachés of various countries on Wednesday visited the impact site of the Feb 26 Indian airspace violation near Jabba, Balakot, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistani military, announced late evening.

Director General (DG) ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor briefed the delegation on the events of the day of the attack, "negating repeated false Indian claims with ground realities".

Read: India refuses to share proof of air strikes in Balakot

"Visitors were shown bomb craters of the Indian air strike attempts in barren open spaces with no loss of human life or infrastructure," the ISPR said. "The group also visited a nearby madrassa that India claimed it had struck and killed scores of terrorists at."

The visitors, according to the ISPR, were allowed to interact freely with students and teachers and saw for themselves that the madressah, where "innocent local children were getting education, stood on ground and was untouched".

The DG ISPR reiterated that "India should accept the reality, stay a responsible state for peace in the region and look inwards to identify reasons for the out-of-hand situation in Indian occupied Kashmir."

"The international delegation also visited APS Swat — a state-of-the-art educational facility established by Pakistan Army as a gift for the resilient people of Swat in recognition of their contributions and sacrifices in defeating terrorism as terrorists had specially targeted educational institutions during the unrest," the ISPR press release stated.

The group were also given a tour of Sabawoon, the army-run rehabilitation and deradicalisation centre, where "juvenile offenders are given psychological treatment" and nurtured back to normal life so they can become useful citizens of the society.

Crater caused by 1,000kg bomb was medium-sized: BBC

BBC journalist Usman Zahid, who was a part of the delegation, said that the bomb site was located on a difficult hilly terrain and it took an hour-and-a-half-long trek to access it.

He said that the crater shown by the Pakistan Army was of medium size, as he recalled that the Indian army had claimed to have used a bomb weighing 1,000 kilogrammes.

The BBC representative further said that at the bomb site there was only one house, which had only suffered minor damage. He also found a person who had sustained injuries.

He said that the delegation was also taken to the madressah situated at the summit where they saw between 150 and 200 children, none aged above 12 to 13, getting Islamic education.

One of the teachers was asked specifically if the facility was run by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). "We do not know who this madressah is under the care of," the teacher replied.

The DG ISPR, in an informal interaction, was asked why the visit was arranged now when the incident had taken place in February.

To this, Major General Ghafoor said that "things were happening very quickly so we did not get a chance. But because many journalists were present in Islamabad right now so this was a good opportunity to bring them all here together."

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