Imran Khan has given his first major statement on last week’s Pulwama incident. In spite of the fact that the incident was the result of actions taken by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a group which has been banned in Pakistan since 2002 but remains active among indigenous Kashmiris in IOK, India has predictably sought to hold the Pakistani state responsible for an incident that was Kashmiri owned, authored and executed.
While scores of Indian politicians have spent the last days competing with each other over who can suggest the most outlandish act of aggression which in their minds ought to be committed against Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken a calm, firm, dignified and transparent approach to the matter. In an address to the Pakistani people, Imran Khan stated that now is the time for dialogue rather than aggression and that further more, the international community must act to address the state sanctioned violence against the people of India Occupied Kashmir, in order to tackle the common root of violence in the region.
Addressing the threats against Pakistan made by the Indian political class in a direct manner, Imran Khan stated:
“Pakistan will not think about retaliation, we will retaliate. You will leave us with no other option”.
But while vowing to retaliate against any act of foreign aggression against Pakistan, Imran Khan also took the opportunity to inject calm into a situation that New Delhi seems keen on escalating. He continued:
“Starting a war is in our hands, it is easy. But ending a war, that is not in our hands and no one knows what will happen”.
Imran Khan then dissected the illogic behind unsubstantiated Indian claims accusing Pakistan of having a hand in the Pulwama incident. First of all, he stated that the reason he had waited to address the issue was because Pakistan was engaged in preparations to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whose successful visit to Islamabad concluded yesterday. As such, it would have been undiplomatic to engage in the necessary issuing of stern words regarding India’s political provocations at a time when Pakistan’s priority was to ensure a hospitable visit for a foreign partner. This itself demonstrates Pakistan’s commitment to peace through prosperity at a time when India sought to engage in a childish game of trading insults, which was in part aimed at ruining the Crown Prince’s visit. Here, India clearly failed in its short term objective.
Secondly, Imran Khan directly addressed the lack of substance behind Indian claims. He said:
“First of all, you [Indian politicians] accused Pakistan. There was no evidence. You should have thought, ‘What would be in it for Pakistan?’ Even a fool would not do such a thing to sabotage his own conference? And even if he [Saudi’s Crown Prince] wasn’t visiting, what benefit would Pakistan get from it?
It is in our country’s interest that no one uses Pakistan to carry out attacks. What would Pakistan gain from this, when we are working towards a stable country?
I am telling you clearly, this is Naya Pakistan. It is a new mindset and a new way of thinking. We believe that it is in our interest that our soil is not used for carrying out terrorist attacks in other countries, nor do we want outsiders to come and carry out terror attacks here. We desire stability”.
In this sense, Imran Khan has called the bluff of Indians accusing Pakistan of doing something that would create no domestic nor geopolitical advantage for the country. What would Pakistan gain from causing tensions at a time when the focus in Islamabad is clearly on economic development and expanded Belt and Road connectivity? How could it benefit Pakistan to give Modi’s BJP a further excuse to play up jingoism before a highly fraught election? What would be the reason for Pakistan seeking to escalate regional tensions days before a prominent visit from the Saudi Crown Prince? These are basic questions that no one in India appears to even acknowledge, let alone attempt to answer.
Imran Khan then invited the Indian government to share directly with Islamabad, any evidence pointing to any connection between the Pulwama incident and the Pakistani state. Emphasising that Pakistan seeks peace rather than conflict, Imran Khan highlighted why Kashmiris resist Indian occupation in the first place and stated,
“One-dimensional oppression of people will never be successful”.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the UN should become more active in recognising and working to end the Indian atrocities against Kashmiri civilians which have made the Valley a place of discord and social discontent.