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Ball is in India court,now to de-escalate tensions: DG ISPR

07 March, 2019

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Pakistan Army Wednesday said the ball is in India’s court now to de-escalate tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals. “The two sides have been eyeballs to eyeballs in Kashmir,” Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor told CNN in an interview. “It is now up to India to move forward towards de-escalation,” he said. “Should they decide to escalate more, this situation will go bad,” he said, adding that the two countries had come close to conflict but the release of Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistani custody last Friday brought the two neighbors back from the brink of war.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said Pakistan is not bowing to Indian or international pressure as it cracks down on militant groups in the country.

On Tuesday, authorities said they detained 44 members of banned organizations, including the son and brother of Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Pulwama in Indian-held Kashmir on February 14, which resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian troops and precipitated the current escalation in tensions between the two nuclear-armed powers.

The ISPR chief said any clamp-down on banned outfits is part of an ongoing domestic policy. “We are not doing anything under anyone’s pressure,” he said, adding that Pakistan will root out “anybody who operates from Pakistan … we feel that it is not in the interest of Pakistan.”

Following the Pulwama attack India, in violation of Pakistan’s airspace, claimed to have struck an alleged JeM camp in Balakot. Pakistan disputed the existence of the camp. “Not even a single brick has been found there if there was infrastructure, and not even a dead body found there. Their claims are false,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.

Islamabad retaliated for the strike by sending its planes over the line of control. In the ensuing dogfight, Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian fighter jets, capturing one pilot.

Further elaborating on the government’s decision to act against JeM, the ISPR chief shot down Indian claims over the February 14 Pulwama attack. “First of all, the claim was not made from within Pakistan since JeM does not exist in the country. It was proscribed by Pakistan and the United Nations.” “Instead of blaming Pakistan, it is time the world assists and facilitates Pakistan in getting rid of such organisations,” he asserted.

When the host asked Maj Gen Ghafoor to reflect on what triggered the attack on Indian soldiers in the disputed valley, the military spokesperson said the answer could be found in the recent report on Indian-held Kashmir issued by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. “If you suppress the local population to an extent that they are being killed, raped and fired upon by pellet guns, then it is a natural reaction,” he said, and stressed that the claims were not just by Pakistan but part of the UNHRC report. “The world has to see what is forcing the Kashmiri youth towards violence,” he said, and urged India to introspect rather than ‘frame allegations’ against Pakistan.

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