Pak PM approves military response | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 23, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, February 23, 2019

Pak PM approves military response

Islamabad authorises decisive reply if attacked; Indian SC orders protection for Kashmiris

The Pakistani government has authorised its military to "respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure" by neighbouring India, as tensions soar between the nuclear-armed rivals.

India has vowed a "jaw-breaking response" to a suicide bombing in the disputed Kashmir region last week that killed 40 Indian soldiers - the worst such attack since the start of an armed rebellion in 1989.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the order in a government statement released after a meeting of his National Security Committee on Thursday.

It said Pakistan was "not involved in any way, means or form" in the attack which it said was "conceived, planned and executed indigenously".

In the statement, Pakistan reiterated its offer to help investigate the attack and to take action against anyone found to be using the Pakistani soil for attacks on India.

Pakistan also offered to hold a "dialogue" with India on all issues, including terrorism. Earlier, it had demanded India provide evidence for its claims that it supports Kashmiri rebel groups.

Pakistan's military yesterday warned India against any "misadventure", saying it was capable of responding to any threats.

"We hope you will not mess up with us," military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told a press briefing in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, the second strong message Pakistan has sent to New Delhi in as many days.

"We don't want to go into war with India but if India initiates any aggression, they will never be able to surprise us," Ghafoor said.

"I want to assure India that we will surprise you," he said. "Let me make it clear that we will defend every inch of our country till the last breath and last bullet".

India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have been fighting for seven decades over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, now one of the most militarised zones in the world.

India has long accused Pakistan of harbouring and aiding armed rebels who target its forces in Kashmir.

The Himalayan territory is split between Pakistani and Indian zones of control, but both countries claim it in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over it.

An armed rebellion erupted in Kashmir in 1989, demanding independence or a union with Pakistan.

Pakistan denies supporting the rebels and has blamed the violence in Kashmir on what it views as India's military occupation of the territory.

Following last week's attack, India halted trade and a key bus service to the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir.

News agency AFP on Thursday reported that bunkers were being rebuilt and a blackout ordered in Chakothi, a border village in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Local authorities have encouraged residents in areas near the Line of Control (LoC) to take additional precautions against the risk of "mischievous action" by the Indian army.

"Bunkers should be constructed in areas where they don't exist. Unnecessary lighting should be avoided after sunset and people should refrain from travelling on roads located close to LoC," the local disaster management agency warned residents in Chakothi.

PROTECTION FOR KASHMIRIS

India's Supreme Court yesterday ordered bolstered protection for Kashmiris who have faced a violent backlash from the last week's suicide bombing in the troubled territory.

More than 700 Kashmiri students, workers and traders have returned to the Himalayan region from the rest of India to escape reprisals for the attack, which has escalated tensions with arch-rival Pakistan.

The top court told state governments and police chiefs to ensure there are no "attacks, threats or social boycott" over the February 14 bombing.

Video footage of Kashmiris being taunted or beaten has been widely shared on social media, while right-wing Hindu groups and some TV news channel pundits have encouraged reprisals.

Some Kashmiris have been suspended by Indian universities for their social media comments on the case. Others have been arrested on sedition charges.

"Immediately after the attack, mobs and vigilante groups engaged in vitriolic hate speech and began attacking, and threatening Muslims and Kashmiris throughout the country," said two activists who sought the Supreme Court action.

Mohammad Yasin Khan, president of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, told AFP that threats of violence were still being made.

Khan said 300 students from Uttarakhand state alone have returned to Kashmir.

Kashmir business groups yesterday called for a protest shutdown by shops and stores in the territory against the "continuing threats and intimidation" of Kashmiri people in Indian cities.

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