Pakistan vows to respond over India’s ‘act of aggression’ after air strikes

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, right, during a press conference with Defense Minister Pervez Khattak after an Indian airstrike, in Islamabad Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 28 February 2019

Pakistan vows to respond over India’s ‘act of aggression’ after air strikes

  • India’s breach raises the possibility of military escalation between archrivals

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday said his country would respond to India’s “act of aggression” in sending fighter jets across the de facto border between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
However, Pakistan rejected New Delhi’s claim that the warplanes had carried out air strikes on a militant training camp, killing large numbers of terrorist fighters.
In a series of Twitter posts on Tuesday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that Indian jets had violated the Line of Control (LoC) which splits the disputed Kashmir region into two areas, one administered by Pakistan and the other by India.
Ghafoor said the Indian planes “hastily escaped” after Pakistan scrambled its own jets, and “no infrastructure got hit” in the confrontation.
But Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said his country’s fighter jets had struck “the biggest training camp” of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), near Balakot, about 50 km from the LoC in Kashmir. He added that many militants, trainers, senior commanders and attackers training for guerrilla action had been killed in the raid.
In a statement, Qureshi said the Pakistani government would hold a joint session of Parliament on Wednesday as well as a meeting of the National Command Authority which overseas Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, to decide on its next step.
“PM (Prime Minister Imran Khan) has directed that elements of national power including the armed forces and the people of Pakistan remain prepared for all eventualities,” Qureshi added.
The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned India’s action against one of its founding members but urged both countries to exercise restraint and avoid any steps that could endanger peace and security in the region.
Gokhale said: “In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of today (Tuesday), India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. A very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen (guerrilla) action were eliminated.”
He added that the commander of the targeted camp was Maulana Yusuf Azhar, a brother-in-law of JeM leader Masood Azhar.
India had decided to act after receiving “credible intelligence” that JeM was planning more attacks in India, Gokhale said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level security meeting after the air strikes and later said at a political rally that “the country is in safe hands.”
“I won’t let the country down,” Modi said. “We won’t let this country bow down.”
India’s breach has raised the possibility of military escalation between archrivals Pakistan and India who have fought three wars since they gained independence from the British in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which the neighbors both claim in full but rule in part.
The air incursion comes two weeks after the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama in which at least 40 Indian soldiers died.
Speaking to journalists, Qureshi said: “This is aggression against Pakistan and Pakistan will respond. The situation is unfolding and God willing, at the political level, at the diplomatic level and at the military level, Pakistan is engaged in planning and Pakistan will also respond.”
Qureshi was reading from a statement issued after a meeting of the Pakistani National Security Committee chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and said the “forum concluded that India has committed uncalled-for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.”
The foreign minister added: “Once again the Indian government has resorted to a self-serving, reckless and fictitious claim (the raid on the camp near Balakot).”
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad’s twin city of Rawalpindi, Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said India had failed to surprise Pakistan. “We were ready, we responded, we denied,” he said. “It is your (India’s) turn now to wait and get ready for our surprise … Our response will be different, and the response will come.”
Ghafoor said Indian jets, which were in Pakistani airspace for about four minutes, remained within 4-5 nautical miles of the LoC and deployed four bombs that hit open ground in Jaba, about 12 km from Balakot.
Mohammad Adil, a resident of Jaba, told local media that villagers heard a “hard, terrifying sound” at around 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning which they initially thought was an earthquake or a thunderstorm. This was followed by the sound of five blasts.
“After 5-10 minutes the sound subsided,” he said. In the morning, villagers found “a large hole in the ground.” Adil added: “Four or five houses were damaged, and one person was also injured.”
Reuters quoted an unnamed resident as saying the blasts had occurred near a JeM-run seminary on the top of a hill.
In condemning India’s attack the OIC’s General Secretariat called upon both countries to act responsibly and encouraged them to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis. It suggested dialogue as a matter of priority to work toward de-escalation of the current situation.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.