Stunned Pak Foreign Min says it will respond appropriately to Indian air strike

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Stunned by the air strikes, Pakistan on Tuesday said it will give an ‘appropriate reply’ to the Indian action, which it described as ‘grave aggression.’ Soon after Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale made the official announcement about the air strike, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan has called a meeting to discuss the issue.

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“It is a grave aggression by India. We had told the world community that such a step could be taken by India,” he told state-owned Pakistan Television. He said Pakistan reserves the right to give a ‘proper reply’ and it will give it.

Earlier Gokhale said India had hit the largest Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, eliminating a ‘large number’ of terrorists, including top commanders. The terror camp in a thick forest area atop a hill was led by Ustad Gauri, brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar, Gokhale said, making a statement before the media, hours after the air strikes using Mirage 2000 were carried out.

He said the ‘pre-emptive’ strike by India had become absolutely necessary as there was credible information that JeM, which recently carried out terror attack in Pulwama, was planning further attacks in this country. A large number of Jaish terrorists, including top commanders, trainers and those terrorists who were to be the ‘fidayeen’ (suicide attackers) were eliminated in the ‘non-military’ air strike, the Foreign Secretary said.

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“The situation is very grave right now. We will act, not react. We reserve the right to retaliate. Pakistan will respond to such ‘uncalled aggression’ from India and our armed forces are prepared for any ‘events of eventualities’,” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“India’s action is a violation of our sovereignty. And, we will definitely engage,” he added.

He further said that a three-member committee has been formed, comprising Pakistan’s foreign minister, finance minister and defence minister to approach the Parliament, so that the people of the country ‘can be taken into confidence on the evolving situation,’ according to The Dawn.

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He further said that Pakistan will take international media to the area of aerial strikes, adding that, “helicopters are being readied (to recee the spot) and right now weather is bad and will fly when weather permits.”

Earlier today, the NSC “rejected” India’s “claims of targetting terror camps in Balakot and “heavy casualties.”

“This action has been done for domestic consumption in an election environment, putting regional peace and stability at grave risk,” a statement from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party read.

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It added that India “committed uncalled aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”

The Pakistan Prime Minister has directed the armed forces to ‘remain prepared for all eventualities.’ He has summoned a special meeting of NCA on Wednesday.

(With ANI inputs)

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