Post the Pulwama attack, the Pak foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, claimed that Pak and its supported terrorist groups had no role in the attack. He sought to justify this not to the local Pakistan press, but to international media. He was desperately seeking to convey to the world community that any Indian action against Pak would be unjustified. However, in his exuberance, he commented without sanction from the rulers of the country, the deep state, and made admissions which had always been denied in the past.
In his interview to the BBC he stated, ‘Pakistan is not sure of Jaish’s involvement in the Pulwama terror attack’. When questioned further on Jaish admitting the responsibility, he added that the Jaish leadership ‘was contacted and it denied their role in the Pulwama attack’. When asked who contacted them, he added, ‘by people over here, and by people who are known to them.’ In a subsequent interview to CNN, he stated, ‘He (Masood Azar, the leader of Jaish) is in Pakistan according to my information, he is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house.’
Statements of this nature by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan convey to the world that terrorist leaders, whom the world seeks to mark as global terrorists, are based in Pak and sheltered officially by the state. It further implies that the terrorist leadership is being treated in state facilities. It also indicates that its top national hierarchy is in constant touch with them. While the world was aware, such a comment made it official.
In a subsequent interaction a few days later, the Pakistan Director General Inter Services Public Relations (DG ISPR), General Ghafoor, stated to the same CNN, ‘Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) 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’. This was contrary to the comments made by his foreign minister and brought differences forward.
Parvez Musharraf around the same time in an interview to a Pakistani Journalist acknowledged that JeM was a terror organization based out of Pakistan and that the ISI had used it to carry out attacks in India. He could not act against them, despite they attempting to assassinate him twice,as his security agencies had stated that they were using such groups against India.
Masood Azar himself released an audio tape claiming that he is well, and all rumours of his ill health are false. He also stated that he is moving around and not confined to his residence. There was no mention of Jaish not claiming responsibility for the attack. This audio tape was placed in public domain after the statement by the DG ISPR. In all probability it was issued to counter rumours which had arisen after comments of the foreign minister.
Post taking militant group leaders into protective custody, Bilawal Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan’s People’s Party, stated, ‘Militants have not been arrested. They have been taken into protective custody so that Indian jets don’t bomb them.’ He has since been accused of being an anti-national.
There has been a mass of contradictions at different levels of the country. It is possible that JeM leadership was unhappy with the foreign minister openly naming their presence in the country, hence objected to the deep state. The DG ISPR came to their rescue denying their presence, which was followed by the Masood Azar himself releasing the audio tape. Comments by Bilawal changed everything once again. None could disprove the reality that they exist in the country, are in contact with the government, treated in state facilities and placed under protective custody to safe guard their lives.
This is not the first time that senior ministers have been let down by comments from the representative of the deep state, DG ISPR. Post the Balakote strike, their defence minister in the presence of the foreign minister, in a press conference, was asked as to why the Pak air force did not respond to the Indian strike. His reply was, ‘Our air force was ready but since it was dark, they could not assess the damage so they waited and now there is clear direction that if there is any other similar attack we will respond adequately.’
Qureshi realised the faux pas and jumped to his support by stating, ‘May I just add. The Pakistan Air Force was already airborne. We were ready for all eventualities.’ He only stated that they were airborne. His comments were too late as the defence minister’s words were already out in public domain.
In a subsequent presser, the DG ISPR stated that the Pak air force acted and chased Indian air craft away from Pak soil. Three representatives of the country and three different comments. Video clips from the press conference would indicate the simplicity and truthfulness in the words of the defence minister, Pervez Khattak. The reverse flows from the DG ISPR and the Foreign Minister. The Defence Minister has since then been missing from the media. In fact, he has been missing from the public eye, possibly would have angered the deep state.
How can such a country ever be trusted, or its leadership engaged in conversation if they openly lie, despite knowing that they will be caught. Any discussion with the current Pak leadership would be subsequently twisted as has been their norm to date. It also brings forth the fact that every comment the Pak leadership makes is fake and unreliable, hence should be ignored.
(The author is former Major General)