Pakistan continued to be confused, defiant and in denial. But despite mounting pressure from around the world to take immediate action against terrorism, it stuck to its old chant of “no proof”.
But even as Pakistan’s Prime Minister said that he did not foresee a war, Pakistan put its air force on red alert and warplanes conducted “emergency scrambles” from four key airbases, in what has been described as whipping up war-hysteria to mount pressure on the West.
Soon after the Pakistan Air Force went on red alert, emergency scrambles were conducted at the Lahore, Rawalpindi, Sargodha and Mianwali airbases, sources were quoted as saying by the private NNI news agency.
F-16 and Mirage combat jets carried out aerial surveillance of the Chashma nuclear power plant complex and other sensitive sites, sources said.
Residents of Mianwali in Punjab province shouted slogans against “Indian aggression” as they watched the jets soaring through the skies over the city, the report said.
The Civil Defence Organisation informed people about safety measures to be observed in the event of air strikes. Siren exercises will be conducted in the city for people to observe a black out, the sources said.
The PAF began conducting sorties over major cities, including the federal capital, on Monday in a show of enhanced vigilance following the escalation of regional tensions.
The contradictions however were apparent in the shifting stance by its various various luminaries. What came up with just in the course of the last 24 hours makes for fascinating reading:
‘They Want To Make Someone The Scapegoat’
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was the one who perhaps summed up the Pakistani response in its totality:
“The government and armed forces of Pakistan are prepared for all eventualities in the face of mounting tensions between the two countries. The armed forces of Pakistan are assessing the situation but I do not think there will be a war. If they (India) try to indulge in any adventure of this kind, the people and institutions of Pakistan are united to defend the country and its territorial integrity. While the operational preparedness of our armed forces is at an optimal level, nobody wants tensions on the borders. We are moving responsibly and with caution..The government is aware of the situation in the region and will act as things move.
“There are indications that there was great public pressure on the Indian government in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. There was an intelligence failure and they want to make someone the scapegoat. We want good relations with all countries, we don’t want a war with anyone. If anyone speaks to us at an international level, they should back it up with evidence…The evidence will be shared with the country. So we don’t want to jump to a conclusion.”
But if PM Gilani was circumspect, President Asif Ali Zardari, who till the other day had been very solicitous of Indian concerns, was far more belligerent after a meeting with Gen Tariq Majid, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, on Tuesday night:
“Pakistan is a great nation and we will defend the country till the last drop of our blood. There would be no compromise on the country’s sovereignty and integrity. India should not underestimate Pakistan’s military power because it is capable of thwarting any aggression from the east. The country is passing through a challenging phase and the people will meet these challenges with determination.”
Others had their own takes on recent happenings:
‘Where’s the Proof?’
Information Minister Sherry Rehman, on her part, continued to deny the absence of proof of Pakistani involvement in the Mumabi terror incidents:
“Pakistan has consistently maintained that it has extended due cooperation to India for joint investigations into the Mumbai attacks and we still await credible and incriminating evidence from New Delhi that we can act upon. Even UN has appreciated the steps taken by Islamabad to counter terror. Interpol too has not received any information from India whereby an internationally coordinated effort could be undertaken to trace the perpetrators through multilateral counter-terrorism mechanisms. Interpol chief Ronald Noble’s validate Pakistan’s anti-terror stance and shows trust in (its) commitment and capability to fight terror. Interpol’s stance on the probe into the Mumbai attacks also validates Pakistan’s position on this issue”
‘But Kasab’s Name is Not in Nadra’
Adviser on Interior Affairs, Rehman Malik, expanded on the same theme:
“Authorities are still examining Iman’s letter [Ajmal Amir Iman alias Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving Mumbai terrorist] though there are no records of any Pakistani national by that name with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). India has not shared any evidence of his involvement in the Mumbai attacks. If you get some accusations, there is always a process of elimination to prove or disprove something. Here we have received a letter and we are examining it.”
However, experts point out that the absence of Ajmal’s name in the NADRA database does not prove anything as the process of registering all citizens is still far from complete. By October, it had completed issuing National Identity Cards to only 60 million people out of Pakistan’s total population of nearly 160 million. Recent comments by its Chairman Saleem Ahmed Moeen, posted on the organisation’s website, also indicate that the database has the fingerprints of only 16 million people
Former PM Nawaz Sharif was perhaps also mindful of the growing need to sound tough on India which perhaps accounted for an abrupt U-turn from his earlier admission that Ajmal Kasab is cleary a Pakistani:
“India should provide evidence for Islamabad to take action or else it should avoid creating tensions through fake allegations. Pakistan, as a state and as a government, is not at all involved in the incident. If India provides evidence to Pakistan, the country will look into them and take action. I will request President Asif Ali Zardari to take stern action if India provides evidence of the involvement of the Pakistani elements in the Mumbai terror attacks. If we get the evidence, I will personally go to President Zardari and ask him to take stern action against such people. Terrorism is poisonous for society and nobody wants to live in a tense situation. It will be better for the future of both countries if they resolved their differences through dialogue.”
Parliamentarians’ Call For UnityMeanwhile, the Pakistani parliamentarians also waded into the war of words, criticising the “war hype” purportedly whipped by New Delhi and asked it to join hands in the investigation of Mumbai terror attacks.
Members of the treasury and opposition benches in the National Assembly or lower house passed a resolution unanimously condemning the Mumbai attacks but asked India to refrain “from activities undermining Pakistan’s sovereignty”.
Supporting the government’s efforts to defuse tension in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, the resolution urged India to respond to Pakistan’s proposal for a joint probe of the incident. This will address concerns related to the attacks, the resolution said.
The resolution was moved by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Ammad Ahmed and supported by the whole house.
However, attendance in the National Assembly was thin with less than 100 members present in the 342-strong House. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and most ministers too were not present.
The resolution reaffirmed Pakistan’s “strong commitment to peace, security and stability of South Asia and to eliminate terrorism in all its forms” and “condemned unsubstantiated allegations levelled in haste against Pakistan”.
Pakistan is committed to pursue its “constructive engagement with India in a comprehensive manner” to build confidence and mutual trust, resolve all outstanding issues, particularly Kashmir, and establish good relations on the basis of equality, it said.
Highlighting the importance of “principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of states”, the resolution said that this is a “pre-requisite for ensuring peace, stability and progress” in the region.
The parliamentarians said Pakistan is united to defend its honour and dignity as well as the country’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.
It said the people and the armed forces would together defend Pakistan’s security interests at all costs.
The resolution was passed at the end of a lengthy debate on national security. In a similar debate in the Senate or upper house of parliament, Leader of the House Raza Rabbani said Pakistan would not extradite any of its nationals to India for alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
If concrete evidence is given by India, the Pakistan government will conduct an investigation and prosecute the accused according to the laws of the land, he said.
“We have condemned all kinds of terrorism and asked the Indian government for a joint investigation soon after the Mumbai attacks,” Rabbani said. India had not provided any evidence and it was unfortunate that it is still indulging in a blame game, he added.
Rabbani said the government would also not allow any kind of military strikes inside Pakistan. “We don’t want war but if the war is imposed on us, we will answer in a befitting manner,” he said.