Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said that the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives, was an "indigenous" incident that happened in Kashmir. Khan added that his country came into picture because Jaish-e-Mohammad, the terror group which claimed responsibility for the attack, is based in Pakistan.
Addressing the Washington-based think-tank US Institute of Peace, Khan stressed that Pakistan should not be blamed for the attack. Khan's justification was that although JeM is based in his country, it also has presence in Kashmir and thus the attack is an "indigenous thing" that happened in India.
“It was a Kashmiri boy radicalised by the brutality of the Indian security forces. He blew himself up. But because this group (Jaish-e-Mohammad) claimed responsibility, which was in India as well, Pakistan suddenly came in the limelight,” Khan said.
Deflecting a question on Mumbai attacks mastermind and Jamaat-ud Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed, who was recently arrested for the seventh time, Khan said it was in the interest of Pakistan that “we do not allow any armed militant groups to operate in our country.”
“The country has had enough of militant groups. Pakistan is now determined. We would not be disarming them if the security forces were not behind this decision,” Khan said.
Speaking about the strained relations with India Khan said, “Pakistan at the moment, most of all needs stability” and thus “a good relationship with our neighbours."
Khan also said he has assured Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that, “you come one step towards us, we will go two steps towards you—because the biggest problem India and Pakistan face is poverty. The best way we can reduce poverty is if we start trading with each other.”
Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of terror group Jaish-e-Muhammad attacked the convoy of CRPF personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district. Twelve days after the deadly attack, India conducted airstrikes deep inside Pakistan's Balakot area to destroy terror hubs of JeM.
The airstrikes led to further tension along the border and days later India and Pakistan engaged in an aerial dogfight with the respective air forces. While India maintained that Pakistan tried to attack the Indian Air Force (IAF) establishments with their fighter jets, Pakistan denied any such incident.
Khan, who is currently on a three-day official visit to the US, met President Donald Trump on Monday in the White House.
The meeting between the two leaders also snowballed into a controversy after Trump claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sought help from him to mediate in the Kashmir crisis with Pakistan. Khan said he welcomed the move, even as India issued a vociferous denial and was supported by several from within the United States.