Pakistan’s military on Monday once again claimed that there was “no damage” in the Balakot airstrike carried out by India and asserted that it will facilitate the Indian journalists if they wish to visit the area to “see the truth”.
Addressing a press conference at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor alleged that India had been “lying repeatedly” and Pakistan has not responded to those lies.
“Since the last two months India has been continuing to lie. As a responsible country we have not responded to their lies,” he said.
“The truth is that there was an incident in Pulwama. Attacks on the police in Pulwama have happened before. There was no damage at our end in Balakot. We took local and foreign media there to show them [the truth]. We will facilitate Indian media if they choose to come to Balakot to see the truth,” Ghafoor was quoted as saying by Geo News.
Tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.
Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.
The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured an IAF pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.
Ghafoor said Pakistan was waiting for the appropriate time to “honour our pilots who downed the Indian planes”.
“India has not said what happened in Pakistan’s counter-strike,” he said.
The Army spokesperson also warned India not to test Pakistan’s resolve. “India must not test Pakistan’s resolve. It is not 1971 anymore,” he said.
After the aerial confrontation, India said one of its MiG-21 fighter jets downed a Pakistani F-16 before itself being shot down on February 27.
Pakistan, however, has consistently denied the Indian Air Force’s claim, saying none of its aircraft was shot down during the weeks of tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries.
Pakistan also claims to have shot a second Indian Air Force jet during the engagement, a claim India has dismissed. “We downed two Indian planes in the process, the whole world saw their debris and you [India] still claimed that one of the two planes was ours and one of our own pilots died, as we had initially said that two Indian pilots had been captured, and then said that there was only one. You [India] said that we have changed our statement because one pilot was our own,” Ghafoor said.
“We got initial information through the proper channel, then on the ground, I personally found out that only one person had been captured and I sent out the correction myself. How is it that you are ready to accept one of our statement, not the other?” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
“We have not retaliated because we want peace […] we asked you [India] to ask America about our F-16s’ strength. In this day and age, hiding the downing of a plane is impossible. In this time, even if a motorcycle crashes the world finds out,” he added.
Ghafoor also criticised India for using the threat of nuclear weapons, saying they were “weapon(s) of deterrence”.
He said India should to change its attitude towards Pakistan instead of asking “us to change attitude”.
Ghafoor also accused India of funding Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a tribal region based rights group, to destabilise Pakistan.