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ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday rejected the Indian claims of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot, saying that Pakistan will decide the time and place of response to the aggression.
India has claimed of inflicting heavy causalities. The NSC deliberated the overall situation at length before rejecting the Indian claim on Tuesday. The NSC statement issued after the meeting maintained that once again the Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim.
The meeting was told that the claimed area of strike is open for the world to see the facts on ground and for this domestic and international media is being taken to the impact site. It vowed that Pakistan shall respond to this uncalled for Indian aggression at the time and place of its choice.
The NSC had its significant meeting which had its second gathering in a week and took some decisions to deal with the situation developed by the irresponsible Indian actions including the so-called air attack. Earlier in the day, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale claimed in New Delhi that its warplanes attacked a militant camp in Balakot, and a “very large number” of militants from the Jaish-e-Mohammad group were killed in the night-time attack.
The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and it was attended by relevant ministers, services chiefs and top security personnel.
The NSC decided to convene the National Command Authority (NCA) meeting today (Wednesday) that deals with the strategic arsenal. The parliamentary leaders will be given in-camera briefing about the developing situation today (Wednesday). The NSC was of the view that the action “has been done for domestic consumption being an election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk”. The leadership resolved that India has committed an “uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing”.
The government, meanwhile, decided to host foreign and local media to inspect the impact site to further its stance. The meeting was attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral Zafar Mehmood Abbasi, Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan and other civil and military officials.
“The claimed area of strike is open for the world to see the facts on ground. For this domestic and international media is being taken to the impact site,” the statement added.
The prime minister directed “elements of national power including the armed forces and the people of Pakistan to remain prepared for all eventualities.” In this regard, he will engage with global leadership to expose the irresponsible Indian policy in the region. The prime minister lauded the timely and effective response of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to “repulse the Indian attempt without any loss of life or property.” Apart from deciding to take the issue to global forums, and highlighting the irresponsible Indian policy for the world leaders to see, the prime minister also approved some other actions. In order to bring the nation up to date with Pakistan’s stance, the prime minister also decided to call a joint session of the Parliament. The session will start here tomorrow (Thursday) at the Parliament House.
Earlier, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor while rubbishing the claims of Indians that their aircraft stayed in Pakistan’s airspace for 21 minutes and killed 350 terrorists asked the adversary to get ready for response. “The formation of the Indian aircraft crossed the LoC by four to five nautical miles which was timely and effectively challenged and repulsed by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF),” he said, adding after dropping the payload of four bombs in a haste, they went back under pressure from the PAF aircraft. “It is time for India to get response for which time place will be chosen by us and the response may be in any domain,” Major General Asif Ghafoor said at a news briefing on Tuesday, maintaining that the response would come and it would come differently.
He pointed out that the prime minister had also called the meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA), while there will also be a joint sitting of the Parliament. The DG ISPR said the response from Pakistan would come at the time and place of Pakistan's choosing where the civil and military leadership decide it. He said the prime minister during meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) asked the 207 million people and armed forces to get ready for any eventuality. “You also saw response of the political leaders who are one at this juncture,” he said.
The DG ISPR, Major General Asif Ghafoor, said the Indian air force started their intrusion at the Pakistani airspace on three fronts. He said one of the Combat Air Patrol (CAP) was in the air when the first visibility of an Indian formation came on radar while approaching towards the Lahore-Sialkot border. “Our CAP approached and challenged them and they returned seven to eight nautical miles within their borders and did not cross into our territory,” he said. “The second Indian formation was spotted at Okara-Bahawalpur sector, but they also did not dare to cross into Pakistan when another Pakistani CAP was sent to that side as standard operation procedure (SOP),” the DG ISPR said. He said the third CAP picked a relatively heavier formation at Muzaffarabad near Keran valley. “They had crossed the LoC by four to five nautical miles when we challenged them. They had crossed the LoC for four minutes before the PAF challenged them,” he said. “Had they struck any of the military positions, there would have been fight. Had they struck us, there would have been causalities of the uniformed personnel,” he said.
The Army spokesman said the Indian forces wanted to target the civilian population so they could make propaganda that they have targeted terrorist base camps to benefit their warmongering. Asif Ghafoor said the Indian forces released their payload of four bombs which dropped miles away near Jabba, Balakot, and left the area immediately. He said the Indians were claiming that they have killed 350 terrorists. “Not even a single brick or debris is present there. They are claiming 350 deaths. Had there been even 10 casualties, there would have been blood, funeral prayers and injuries," Asif Ghafoor said. He said the spot was open for everybody and anybody, defence attachés, observers of the United Nations and ambassadors. “Even the civilian and military representatives from India are invited to come to the spot from authorised entry points, see it for yourself and go back and tell your prime minister,” he said.
"I said three things: You will never be able to surprise us and we have not been surprised. We were ready, we responded, we denied. I said we will retain the escalation ladder. We have that initiative in our hand," he said. "I am saying that we will surprise you. Wait for that surprise. Our response will be different. See it for yourself. The response will come, and response will come differently," he said.
In an earlier tweet, the DG ISPR said Indian military aircraft violated the LoC as they "intruded" from the Muzaffarabad sector and were forced to return owing to the timely response of the Pakistan Air Force. "Indian aircraft intrusion across LoC in Muzaffarabad Sector within AJK was 3-4 miles. Under forced hasty withdrawal aircraft released payload which had free fall in open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties. Technical details and other important information to follow," Asif Ghafoor wrote on Twitter. He also tweeted images of the "payload of hastily escaping Indian aircraft" which "fell in [the] open".
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan will respond to India's act of aggression. Addressing a joint press conference with the ministers of defence and finance, Qureshi read out a handout released after the NSC meeting stating that Pakistan has rejected the India's claims of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and heavy casualties. “The Bhartiya Janata Party was rejected in five Indian states so it had to resort to something… when it is time for elections, politicians start losing their minds,” Qureshi said. “Even within India people are raising questions and saying the story is not the same as being narrated,” said Qureshi.
The Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak while addressing the briefing said the Indian aircraft dropped their payload some four to five kilometres inside the LoC. "(The incident) happened in the night-time. There are some things we cannot make public. But there will be a response (from Pakistan)," Khattak said.
Responding to a journalist's question, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the Pakistan Air Force were airborne and waiting for any eventuality. "At 2:55am the Indian planes entered (the Pakistani airspace). At 2:58am they (were driven out) of our airspace. They fled from the LoC because of the alertness of our Air Force," the foreign minister said, as he warned not to "underestimate their (the air force's) ability to defend Pakistan." "(Our air force) is always vigilant, and always ready to face the challenge. We have our own sense of timing. We will act, not react."
Reminding India of the opening of Kartarpur corridor, Qureshi said Pakistan is a responsible and peaceful country and has always talked about de-escalation. "[We] wish India could also open their way of thinking. Right now, they have elections on their mind. They are too caught up with power." "Pakistan will do what Pakistan should do," he said in response to a reporter's question.