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Pakistan 'ready to help India investigate, but will retaliate if attacked': PM Imran Khan

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said it will retaliate to Indian aggression [Getty Images]

Date of publication: 19 February, 2019

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In a nationally televised address, Prime Minister Imran Khan demanded India provide proof to back claims Pakistan was involved in last week's suicide bomb attack in contested Kashmir.
Pakistan is ready to help India investigate the suicide bomb attack in contested Kashmir, but will retaliate if Delhi attacks, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday as tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals soared.
India's top military commander in the Kashmir region accused Pakistan's main spy agency, the Inter-Services (ISI) agency, of involvement in last week's attack.

Khan demanded Delhi share proof of Islamabad's involvement in last Thursday's attack in which a Kashmiri militant crashed an explosive-laden van into a paramilitary bus. Killing at least 40 soldiers, it was the deadliest attack against Indian government forces in Kashmir's history.

The attack was claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). India's army said Tuesday it killed the mastermind behind the attack, after a guinbattle that lasted much of Monday. 

"We were tracking down top leadership since the attack. It was being controlled from across by ISI and Pakistan and JeM commanders," said Lieutenant-General K.J.S. Dhillon in remarks quoted by Reuters.

Denying any involvement, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday’s attack was a matter of grave concern. Pakistan banned the JeM in 2002. 

Escalating Tensions

Pakistan appealed to the UN on Tuesday to help deescalate the situation in Kashmir, a day after the country recalled its ambassador to New Delhi. Monday also saw tensions in the Muslim-majority Kashmir erupt into a deadly gun battle that killed seven.  

Read also: A year of death, destruction and censorship in Kashmir

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged that "for domestic political reasons, India has deliberately ratcheted up its hostile rhetoric against Pakistan and created a tense environment".

Some are looking to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has travelled on to India after a two-day visit to Pakistan, to soothe the tensions.

India's Ministry of External Affairs said it had no comment on Pakistan's letter to the U.N.

Kashmir is the site of a decades-long conflict between India and Pakistan in which both nuclear-armed nations claim the region but control only parts.

Guerilla groups have fought against Indian rule in the Indian administrated Kashmir for the past thirty years.

"Many here want either independence from India or the merger of territory with Pakistan," said Aamir Ali Bhat, a Kashmir-based journalist.

Tensions in the region have escalated since July 2018, after militant commander Burhan Wani was killed. Last year alone saw the death of more than 550 people – marking the deadliest year in a decade.

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