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Cat out of the bag

For Minister Fawad Chaudhary was unequivocal in claiming credit for the terror attack in Pulwama last year and offered it as proof of the muscular approach adopted by his country.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Just days after the Financial Action Task Force extended Pakistan’s grey-listing until February, an extension Islamabad described as a victory while claiming that black-listing was off the table, the statement by a senior member of the Imran Khan government on the floor of the country’s Parliament must provoke a rethink both by the task force as well as the comity of nations.

For Minister Fawad Chaudhary was unequivocal in claiming credit for the terror attack in Pulwama last year and offered it as proof of the muscular approach adopted by his country.

While Mr Chaudhury might now seek to back-pedal, as he was seen attempting furiously when questioned by an Indian television channel, his statement was unambiguous and thus capable only of a single interpretation ~ that the suicide bomber attack on a Central Reserve Police Force contingent in February 2019 was planned, financed and executed by the Pakistani state.

The admission came about thanks to a provocative claim made by a member of the Opposition the previous day who had said a quivery-kneed government had ordered the release of an Indian Air Force officer fearing an imminent attack by India.

This statement, by former Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, had provoked great consternation in Pakistan, for he had said that a shaken Foreign Minister S M Qureshi at a meeting with the Army chief which the Prime Minister had refused to attend had recommended the capitulation to India, to ward off a military attack.

The suggestion that both the civilian government and the military establishment acquiesced in returning the Indian officer has led to frenzied damage control, one manifestation of which was Minister Chaudhary’s admission of his government’s involvement in the Pulwama attack, offered as proof of being aggressive rather than cowardly.

The other has been the attempt by Pakistan’s military establishment, which through the head of the Inter-Services Public Relations, described any attempt to link the release of the Indian officer with anything other than a mature response as “disappointing” and “misleading”.

Pakistan’s all-powerful establishment is now trying desperately to defuse the situation, having persuaded Mr Sadiq to adopt the standard politician’s ploy of claiming to be misquoted while getting Mr Chaudhary to say that his remarks are being viewed out of context. But with the cat having slunk out of the bag, these efforts at damage control may not succeed.