ISLAMABAD Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that if India has “solid evidence” regarding Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar’s involvement in the Pulwama attack, it should share that with Pakistan “so we can convince the judiciary and the people”.
The foreign minister made these remarks during an interview with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour regarding Pakistan’s ongoing tensions with India, which was sparked by the Pulwama incident and has since led to armed conflict at the Line of Control.
Qureshi was asked how he would respond to Indian concerns regarding Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). “My message to the Indians is that this is a new government that has a new mindset. We want to live in peace. We have a people-centric agenda. We want to concentrate on fixing the economy. We want to improve governance and eradicate corruption in Pakistan. That’s the mandate given to us.
“We want to see peace and reconciliation in Pakistan and the region. The western front is consuming us; we do not want [escalation on the] eastern front. The policy of our government is that we will not allow our soil to be used by any organisation or individual for terrorism against anyone, and that includes India.”
Qureshi was asked what he thought of India’s desire to have the JeM’s head’s name on the international terrorist list. “We will be open to any step that leads to de-escalation. If they have good, solid evidence, please sit and talk, initiate a dialogue and we will show reasonableness.”
When asked if Azhar was present in Pakistan and would the government go after him, Qureshi replied: “He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is very unwell, to the extent that he cannot leave his house.”
He urged India to share with Pakistan any evidence that “is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan”.
Regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to release the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) captured pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, Qureshi said: “This was a goodwill gesture and we feel that this should be an expression of Pakistan’s willingness to de-escalate.”
When asked how serious the conflict between Pakistan and India two nuclear-armed countries was, the foreign minister said: “The situation certainly was serious when India attacked Pakistan, when they violated our airspace and dropped bombs, when they violated the UN charter and international law. This was serious. The Indian and Pakistani air forces are fully mobilised … how dangerous can it be?”
Upon being asked if he envisioned an all-out Pak-India war, Qureshi said: “I hope not. That would be a mutual suicide. Pakistan never wants to escalate or want to be in a hostile position. From day one, Prime Minister Imran Khan offered that if you take one step towards peace we will take two. He wrote to the Indian prime minister, saying ‘let the two foreign ministers meet on the sidelines in New York so that they can chart a way forward’.
“When this Pulwama tragic incident took place and I landed in Munich for the security conference and I learned about it, what did I do? I condemned, condoled and then the prime minister made a reasonable offer that ‘if you have actionable evidence, share it with us and we will honestly, sincerely investigate.’
“I wish India, instead of attacking Pakistan, had shared earlier the dossier, which we received today.”