We were close to war: Asif Ghafoor

Pakistan Wednesday said the ball is now in India’s court following Islamabad’s “peace gesture” of releasing an Indian Air Force pilot but warned that the situation will “go bad” if New Delhi decides to opt for further escalation.

The remarks were made by Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Pakistan army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), to CNN.

Tensions between the two neighbours heightened following the February 14 Kashmir suicide bombing that killed 40 CRPF personnel which was claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). India retaliated by bombing JeM’s biggest training camp in Balakot across the Line of Contorl.

Later, Islamabad captured an IAF wing commander after a February 27 dogfight between Indian and Pakistani Air Force. He was released on March 1 as a “peace gesture” by Pakistan.

“We feel that now the ball is in the Indian court. Should they decide to escalate more, the situation will go bad,” Ghafoor told CNN.

Asked whether India and Pakistan were close to war, he said: “We were I would say close to war because when they (India) violated the airspace under token aggression, we went for response. Now it is up to India whether they take that (IAF pilot release) as a peace gesture and move forward towards de-escalation or continue the agenda that they have.”

Talking about the situation on the Line of Control (LoC), Ghafoor said: “Along the Line of Control (LoC) we’re are eyeball to eyeball. There is presence of troops at the LoC for decades. But post the Indian aggression and our response the safeguards have been taken by both side.”

He added that troops had been increased “because it is natural as part of military planning. When the situation gets hot there are safeguards. Those safeguards are in place on both sides.”

Speaking about the Balakot raids, in which New Delhi said that a large number of militants were killed, Ghafoor claimed that there were no casualties.

“Their (Indian) claims are false and I believe lately there is an announcement from their side also that they cannot claim any casualty. Anybody who operates from Pakistan, we feel, that is not in the interest of Pakistan. Instead of blaming Pakistan, it is time that the world should assist and facilitate Pakistan in getting rid of such organisations,” he said.

Asked if the Kashmir attack triggered the tensions, Ghafoor said the answer lied in the UN Human Rights Commission report which highlighted “Indian atrocities in Kashmir”.

“The world has to see what is forcing the Kashmiri youth to go towards violence. So instead of looking towards framed allegation for this incident, India also has to look inward. We have to move towards resolution of Kashmir, because this issue is a flashpoint for peace in the region,” he added. 

PAK Moblises More Troops Weaponary
Amid heightened Indo-Pak tension, sources in the Indian security establishment on Wednesday said that Pakistan has mobilised additional troops and military equipment from its frontier with Afghanistan to forward positions in several sensitive sectors along the LoC in Kashmir.

Sources said the military officials of the two armies spoke over the hotline on Tuesday during which India had asked Pakistani side not to target civilian population along the LoC.

“Post our warning to the Pakistan Army not to target civilian areas, the overall situation along the Line of Control remains relatively calm,” the Army said in a statement while reiterating the warning on Wednesday about attacks on civilians.

‘JeM Doesn’t Exist In PAK’
Jaish-e-Muhammed which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack does not exist in Pakistan, the military’s spokesperson has said, days after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi admitted that the outfit’s chief is present in the country.

Director ISPR major general Asif Ghafoor said that the JeM claim of responsibility for the Pulwama attack had not been made from inside Pakistan.

“Jaish-e-Muhammed does not exist in Pakistan. It has been proscribed by the United Nations and Pakistan also. Secondly, we are not doing anything under anybody’s pressure,” he claimed.

Ghafoor said instead of blaming Pakistan, it is time for the world to assist and facilitate Pakistan in getting rid of such organisations.