India may look for excuse to start war: PM

August 07, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the joint session of parliament on Tuesday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the joint session of parliament on Tuesday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday expressed his fear that after annexation of Jammu and Kashmir, India might stage Pulwama-like incidents to find an excuse to start an armed conflict with Pakistan which could lead to a “conventional war”.

“The incidents like Pulwama are bound to happen again. I can already predict this will happen. They (India) will attempt to place the blame on us again. They may strike us again, and we will strike back,” the prime minister said while speaking to the specially convened joint sitting of parliament to discuss the situation arising out of the Indian government’s decision to revoke the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir through repeal of Article 370 of its constitution.

“What will happen then? They will attack us and we will retaliate. The war can go both ways [...] But if we fight a war in which we have resolved to fight till the last drop of our blood is shed, who will win that war?” Mr Khan asked. “It’s not nuclear blackmailing, rather I am appealing to the common sense. Is the world prepared for the worst?”

Imran asks opposition leader to give specific suggestions to counter New Delhi’s actions in held Kashmir

The special session of the two houses of parliament had been convened by the government on the opposition’s demand to discuss the Indian move to revoke the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir and to give a message of unity to the world on the Kashmir issue. However, it was marred by usual bickering when the opposition protested over the language of the agenda issued for the joint session and the absence of the prime minister and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The sitting remained suspended for more than three hours when the opposition refused to allow Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari to deliver the opening speech and insisted that the prime minister come to the house and make a policy statement.

It was after lengthy negotiations held at the chamber of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and then by representatives of the government and the opposition at the chamber of Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif that the prime minister agreed to attend the sitting and make a policy statement on the condition that the opposition would not disrupt his speech.

Terming India’s move “unconstitutional”, PM Khan warned that it would further escalate the situation and there would be more reaction to it. He warned that another Pulwama-like incident could happen in future. He said if India made any aggression against Pakis­tan, it would be responded in a befitting manner like they previously did when India “bombed” Balakot.

Mr Khan said Pakistan was confronted with “racist ideology” of the Modi government, which had been following the RSS (Rash­triya Swayamsevak Sangh) ideology of superiority. He feared that India would now carry out ethnic cleansing in Jammu and Kashmir.

The prime minister said whatever India had done in held Kashmir to change its special constitutional status was in accordance with the election manifesto of the Bha­ratiya Janata Party (BJP). He said the RSS believed that only Hindus had the right to live in

India and even today their founding father had a clear ideology that India would remain only under a Hindu rule. He said the BJP government was following the ideology which had killed Mahatma Gandhi.

The prime minister said India had violated its own constitution, own Supreme Court, the United Nations and Geneva conventions by revoking the special status of Kashmir. He said Kashmir’s independence movement could not be crushed by a single presidential decree.

He said that if the international community failed to take notice of the Indian move, the damage could go uncontrolled, adding that Pakistan was planning to approach all international forums, including the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court, to fight India’s illegal act.

Later, responding to criticism by Shahbaz Sharif, the prime minister asked the former to give specific suggestions in clear terms instead of delivering long speeches as to what the government should do to counter the Indian move.

“What do you want me to do? Should I attack India?” asked Mr Khan after listening to the speech of Mr Sharif who had criticised the government for not pre-empting the Indian move despite knowing that it was a part of the BJP’s manifesto.

Then the prime minister asked Mr Sharif to explain what his party did while ruling the country for five years to stop Indian brutalities.

The prime minister left the house when the speaker gave floor to Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who delivered the last speech of the day after which the speaker adjourned the sitting till Wednesday morning.

Earlier, Mr Sharif called for a decisive response to the India’s latest move. “Is it not our massive failure? That we didn’t know what the Indian government was thinking? Yes we are united for the cause of Pakistan, but that [unity] should not [come] without self-introspection,” he said.

The opposition leader regretted that none of the friendly nations, including China and Saudi Arabia, had reacted to the development, terming it a “failure of foreign policy”. He also objected to PM Khan’s all-out offer to the United States on the Afghanistan issue, saying that India was the country which was creating hurdles in the way of peace process. He said the PTI was celebrating US President Donald Trump’s mediation offer and India acted silently.

“Was President Trump’s offer to mediate was his trump card or a trap card?” Mr Sharif asked. “We will neither let Modi turn [India] into Israel nor allow Kashmir to turn into Palestine [...] India has been given a freehand while we assure the world that we want peace in Kabul. Are we the only ones responsible [to establish peace in Afghanistan]?” he asked.

The prime minister, however, clarified that he had not gone to the US to discuss Pakistan-India relations. He said that during a lengthy news conference, he had asked the US president to intervene because bilateral talks with India had failed.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari asked the prime minister to rise to the occasion and provide leadership for the Kashmir cause instead of only doing tweets and making a speech. He said it was unfortunate that the prime minister had not given any policy statement in the house and the foreign minister was not even in the country.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2019