Was Pakistan involved in Pulwama attack?

Within a couple of hours after Pulwama attack, India blamed Pakistan and Indian media tried to give an impression that the Pakistani government and all its people are responsible.

On 14 February 2019, forty security personnel belonging to India’s CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) were killed in a suicide attack. The attack occurred at Pulwama district of Indian-occupied Kashmir.

It was the deadliest terrorist attack on Indian state security personnel in Kashmir since 1989. Jaish-e-Muhammad, a militant organization operating from Indian-occupied Kashmir, claimed the responsibility of attack.

Indian’s reaction

As soon as Jaish-e-Muhammad claimed the responsibility, Indian government and media pointed their fingers at Pakistan alleging that since Jaish-e-Muhammad’s chief resides in Pakistan, ‘Pakistan supports this organization’ and therefore Pakistan was directly involved in this attack.

We will discuss later how true or false this Indian claim is but this claim was propagated aggressively by Indian media. Currently, India has more than 400 news channels (including regional languages) and over 105, 000 newspapers & periodicals. One can imagine how effective a propaganda through media can be on minds of Indian people.

As a result of this propaganda, a common Indian was made to believe that ‘Pakistan executed the attack on Central Reserve Police Force and killed 50 personnel‘. An atmosphere of hatred was developed and everything related to Pakistan was declared a culprit. That included Pakistani government, military, actors, singers, athletes, common people, companies and products. All of a sudden, every Pakistani was declared a terror-supporter and played a role in Pulwama attack.

India lost 40 soldiers in Pulwama incident

Following were a few steps taken by Indian government against Pakistan and fully endorsed by majority of Indian people:

  • The customs duty on all Pakistani goods imported to India was increased by 200%.
  • India withdrew the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status for Pakistan. Previously under MFN status, Pakistan had preference in trade agreements.
  • Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) was urged to put Pakistan in the blacklist.
  • DSport, an Indian sports channel, suspended broadcasting of PSL (Pakistan Super League) cricket matches.
  • Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association banned Pakistani artists in films and music produced in India.
  • All Indian Cine Workers Association banned Pakistani actors and singers in Indian films.
  • Pakistani shooters were denied visas to participate in the International Shooting World Cup.
  • Hoping that Pakistan could be banned from participating in ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 (to be held in England and Wales), without naming Pakistan, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) called on the International Cricket Council to “sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates”.
  • Some tomato farmers in India refused to export tomatoes to Pakistan.
  • Indian government suspended Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service.
  • T-Series, an Indian music company, dropped Pakistani singers’ songs from its YouTube channel
  • Cricbuzz, a popular Indian cricket website, stopped coverage of PSL (Pakistan Super League) matches.

Some of these steps had no real effect on Pakistan and India had to face embarrassment due to a few of them since they backfired. The main reason is that Pakistan is not economically dependent on India. Furthermore, Indian government approached different countries and tried to convince them to isolate Pakistan or at least put restrictions so that Pakistan weakens economically and diplomatically. Although most of the countries condemded the attack (including Pakistan) but not a single country bought India’s theory that Pakistan was involved in Pulwama attack.

Except India, no other country blamed Pakistan for Pulwama attack.

Some of these steps had no real effect on Pakistan and India had to face embarrassment due to a few of them since they backfired. The main reason is that Pakistan is not economically dependent on India. Furthermore, Indian government approached different countries and tried to convince them to isolate Pakistan or at least put restrictions so that Pakistan weakens economically and diplomatically. Although most of the countries condemned the attack (including Pakistan) but not a single country bought India’s theory that Pakistan was involved in Pulwama attack.

Why was India wrong?

There are a number of issues with India’s narrative on Pulwama attack. Let’s analyze them one by one:

  1. India blindly believed Jaish-e-Muhammad’s statement that they carried out Pulwama attack. That is why Indian government was officially blaming Pakistan within 30 minutes after the attack. Not sure if it’s ridiculous, funny or both but it is definitely unusual and an immature attitude.

    If a person or organization takes responsibility for a terrorist attack, it’s not necessary that they telling the truth. Thorough investigation should be done by security agencies and the results of investigation may or may not match with the claim of responsibility taken by an organization. Since 2001, Pakistan is actively involved in war on terror and doubtlessly Pakistan’s experience in tackling terrorism in much more than India’s. In many terrorist incidents in Pakistan, some specific terrorist organization claimed the responsibility but later it was found incorrect.
  2. Even if we suppose that Jaish-e-Muhammad’s claim is correct and they are the ones who executed Pulwama attack, blaming an entire country (including its government, military and common people) was immature act. Indian government played a dirty role by encouraging their media to further exploit it. The next section will explain how involvement of Jaish-e-Muhammad can not be equated with involvement of Pakistan.
“Pakistan will not think of retaliation; we will retaliate”, Pakistan PM Imran Khan said while responding to India’s threats of aggression against Pakistan.

Involvement of non-state actor in Pulwama attack

For correctly understanding involvement of an organization or a country in terrorism, we must understand difference between non-state actors and state actors.

A non-state actor is an organized entity which answers to no government and has its own agenda. ISIS, Shiv Sena, RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), Jaish-e-Muhammad and Taliban are violent non-state actors.

Non-state actor is an individual or organization that has significant political influence but is not allied to any particular country or state.

Oxford Dictionary

On the other hand, a state-actor is an entity directly supported by a government. These can be overt or covert intelligence, military or diplomatic functionaries. CIA, ISI, Indian Army, Pakistan Army, NATO etc are a few examples of state actors.

If a non-state actor is involved in a crime, it can’t be said that the state is responsible only because that non-state actor resides in that particular country.

For example, when a political organization registered in India proudly confesses that they killed 2000 people in Gujarat, can we claim that state of India and Indian government is officially involved? Unless there is concrete evidence that the particular non-state actor is supported by government, one can not blame a state based on suppositions. In real world, a fact can only be established when aided by evidence and proofs. Fictitious tales are only good for Bollywood and shouldn’t be applied in running a government.

Should Pakistan take any action against Jaish-e-Muhammad?

The short answer is yes.

Pakistan should not take action against Jaish-e-Muhammad due to India’s pressure but for eradicating terrorism because no other country has suffered from terrorism more than Pakistan where so far more than 60,000 people have been killed in terrorism-related incidents since 2001. Moreover, Pakistan has a policy that it can never allow its land to be used for terrorism against any other nation.

However, any action against Jaish-e-Muhammad depends on two factors:

  1. India must provide concrete evidence that Jaish-e-Muhammad was definitely involved in Pulwama attack and do not simply quote what Jaish-e-Muhammad claimed.
  2. The suicide bomber was a resident of Indian-occupied Kashmir and held Indian passport. He never visited Pakistan in his lifetime. Other alleged accomplices were also Indian citizens. India must share its intelligence and investigation with Pakistan so that a link can be established. Simply asking Pakistan to act against Jaish-e-Muhammad and saying “we know they attacked us and do not ask for evidence otherwise we will annihilate and isolate Pakistan” will be counter-productive and India shouldn’t expect Pakistan to assist India if such bullying attitude continues.

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