THE press conference held by the prime minister’s national security adviser on Sunday regarding last month’s Johar Town blast in Lahore contained some very serious statements about India’s apparent involvement in the act of terrorism.

Accompanied by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and the Punjab police chief, NSA Moeed Yusuf categorically said that Pakistan had “concrete evidence” of India’s involvement in the episode, and went on to list it.

The June 23 car bombing had killed three people. It occurred near the house of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed. The NSA said that foreign suspects were involved in the violent act, including an Afghan man born in Pakistan, while the mastermind of the crime had links to the Indian spy agency RAW.

Going by the NSA’s words, the evidence linking India to the act of terrorism appears strong and the government must share the proof with the international community.

Editorial: Lahore blast

The blast — and the subsequent revelations — came at a time when a nominal thaw in frosty Pakistan-India relations was underway. The recent renewal of the ceasefire along the LoC, as well as news that officials from both capitals were involved in laying the groundwork for talks about talks, apparently encouraged by common foreign friends, had signalled a lowering of the temperature in the region. Of course, the path to peace is not straight and narrow in South Asia, and is in fact strewn with all kinds of obstacles. Events such as the Lahore blast are exactly the kind of spoilers that throw the peace process off track. However, such harmful events will continue until the main issue — Kashmir — is addressed in a frank and forward-looking manner. Pakistan must be firm that it will not tolerate acts of terrorism on its soil. At the same time, it should not allow such incidents to derail the greater quest for peace, bumpy as the road may be.

Perhaps the best option at this juncture is to keep the backchannel process, if it is currently active, alive. Away from the spotlight, Pakistan must communicate clearly to India that such malicious actions must stop if peace is to be achieved.

It is all too easy to pursue a mutually destructive path and continue to indulge in negative behaviour. But as the experience of the past seven decades shows, this approach has not brought any great dividends for the people of South Asia. The region needs to be free from war, terrorism and continuous confrontation to allow its people to march forward economically and socially. If India is serious about peace, it must stop indulging in such destabilising behaviour and talk to Pakistan about all irritants standing in the way of better ties. Pakistan can and will defend itself against hostile actions. But as this country’s leadership has said repeatedly, Pakistan wants peace, and for this, the Kashmir issue must be resolved judiciously.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2021

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