Pakistan Army latches onto Sushma's comment on Balakot strike toll

Swaraj had claimed on Thursday no Pakistani soldier, civilian had died in the strike

Sushma PTI [File] Sushma Swaraj | PTI

The spokesperson of the Pakistan armed forces declared Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had “spoken” the truth when she claimed no “Pakistani soldier or civilian had died in the air strike on Balakot”. Swaraj made the comment when addressing BJP women workers in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Swaraj had told the BJP workers the Narendra Modi government had given the military a “free hand”, but instructed no Pakistani civilian be killed and there be “not even a scratch” on the Pakistan Army. "Our armed forces were told to target only Jaish-e-Mohammed, which was behind the Pulwama terror attack and they did just that—destroyed their camp and returned," Swaraj said.

Swaraj's address, delivered in Hindi, had mentioned Pakistan ka koi nagrik, which was initially construed as meaning “no citizen of Pakistan”. However, officials later clarified Swaraj was referring to civilians when she used the word “nagrik”.

Not surprisingly, Major General Asif Ghafoor, the spokesperson of the Pakistan armed forces, played up the “no citizen” inference. He tweeted, “Finally the truth under ground reality compulsions. Hopefully, so will be about other false Indian claims ie surgical strike 2016, denial of shooting down of 2 IAF jets by PAF and claim about F16. Better late than never.”

Pakistan has maintained the Indian Air Force strike on Balakot had not caused any casualties and even took a group of international journalists to the purported site of the attack over 40 days after the incident.

Initial estimates in the immediate aftermath of the Balakot attack had put the death toll of Jaish members at at least 200. Senior BJP leaders, including party chief Amit Shah, had claimed over 250 militants were killed in the attack.