Attack by India will be “paid back in same coin,” Pakistan army chief warns

Pakistani army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa talking to Pakistan army troop on Line of Control in Kashmir on Feb. 22. (Source ISPR)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Attack by India will be “paid back in same coin,” Pakistan army chief warns

  • Gen Bajwa visits Line of Control to review troop preparedness and morale
  • Military spokesman tells India: “Don’t mess with Pakistan”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa warned India on Friday against carrying out an attack on Pakistan, saying any “misadventure” would be reciprocated in equal measure.

The army chief’s statement came during a visit to the Line of Control, or de factor border, between Pakistan and India in Kashmir to review the state of troop preparedness and morale.

Tensions between nuclear-armed neighbours Pakistan and India have sharply escalated since last week’s suicide attack in the disputed region of Kashmir in which 40 Indian troopers were killed. Jaish-e-Mohammed, a group believed to be based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack and India has warned Islamabad of a “strong response” to the assault.

Pakistan denies any state complicity in the attack and said on Friday it had taken control of Jaish headquarters in the southern Punjab city of Bahawalpur and appointed an administrator.

“Pakistan is a peace-loving country but we will not be intimidated or coerced,” the chief said in an address to soldiers. “Any aggression or misadventure shall be paid back in same coin.”

Earlier on Friday Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor also warned India against military action, saying Islamabad would respond with “full force” if attacked.

“We have no intention to initiate war, but we will respond with full force to full spectrum threat that would surprise you,” Ghafoor told reporters at a press conference. “Don’t mess with Pakistan.”

India has long held that Pakistani Islamist militant groups infiltrate into the part of Kashmir that it administers to fuel insurgency and help separatist movements. Pakistan denies this, saying it only provides Kashmiris moral and diplomatic support in their struggle for self-determination.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since they gained independence from the British in 1947, two of them over the disputed Kashmir valley.

Ghafoor said Islamabad had delayed its response to the Kashmir attack to investigate what he called New Delhi’s baseless claims of state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan. Following this, he said, Prime Minister Imran Khan had responded in a recorded address to the nation

on Tuesday, asking India to provide “actionable intelligence” and warning retaliation if India attacked.

“Terrorism is a regional problem and Pakistan is willing to table talks with India on the matter,” the military spokesman reiterated.

The attack in disputed Kashmir came just days before a scheduled visit to Pakistan by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman in which he was slated to sign agreements worth billions of dollars. Pakistan and the Kingdom eventually signed agreements worth $21 billion during the crown prince’s visit.

“When an important event for Pakistan is scheduled to happen, this type of staged action arises,” Ghafoor said, referring to the crown prince’s visit.

“The attack happened miles from the Line of Control,” the army spokesman said, referring to the de-facto border between the two countries. “The explosives used were under use by Indian security forces and administration – it didn’t come from Pakistan. The vehicle used was local, not from Pakistan. The attack [was carried out ] by a young Kashmiri, who was a resident of Indian-administered Kashmir.”

Hours after Ghafoor’s press conference, Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley said in New Delhi that India would “exercise all instruments at its command, whether it is diplomatic or otherwise” to respond to Pakistan over its alleged role in the deadly Kashmir bombing.

Referring to Islamabad’s alleged support for Islamist militant groups, Jaitley added, “I think Pakistan is riding a tiger on this issue, and a tiger never spares its own rider.”


In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

Updated 26 May 2019
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In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

PESHAWAR: Located next to iconic landmarks like the Provincial Assembly and the High Court, the central prison in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar is a handsome old building bursting at the seams with over 18,000 prisoners. 38 of them are women.

The existing building was established in 1854 with an occupancy limit of 425 prisoners, but with the influx of thousands of inmates, a new block is now under construction and slated for completion by the end of the year. 

Inside the prison kitchens, convicted prisoners make round traditional bread and prepare Iftar meals for other inmates. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The prison department provides basic facilities and food to inmates still under trial and to those convicted in the male, female and juvenile sections. During the month of Ramadan, these facilities extend to include special meals at Iftar, like sweet rice, chicken and potatoes served with a side of milky hot tea. 

A female inmate cooks chicken gravy for herself and other prisoners in the prison barracks before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“We get good food in this month (of Ramadan) and are free to offer our prayers and recite the Holy Quran at any time,” said Shahida, an inmate who has been in the prison for five years but was convicted for murder late last year. 

Acting superintendent of the prison releases prisoners after the court orders arrive. The inmates receive the good news right before Iftar time in Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The large hall of the women’s section has a scattering of beds, but most inmates sleep, eat and pray on quilts spread out on the floor. 

A police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the women’s section in Peshawar’s central jail. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

"Some of the women get sick often,” said Iffat Shaheen, assistant superintendent of the women’s prison section. “Right now we have two pregnancy cases and one case of HIV AIDS, so we try to give them good meals. A few prisoners have small children inside prison with them and they get milk as well.” 

A female inmate gives English lessons to some of the children at the Peshawar central prison. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

Another female inmate convicted for possession of drugs has been in prison for seven months. She declined to be identified but said they had a lot of free time in Ramadan that could be put to good use. 

Women in Peshawar’s central prison spend their days reading the Quran and reciting prayer beads during the month of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“This is a helpful time for us to learn skills like handicrafts and sewing,” she said. “When we leave prison, perhaps these things will pave the way for a good, halal living.” 

A woman inmate at Peshawar’s central jail has decorated her hands with henna in anticipation of the holy festival of Eid, which will mark the end of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Rooh Afza, a popular indigenous drink made from herbs and flowers, is served around Peshawar’s central prison by the bucketfuls before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Weekly menu written out for prisoners at Peshawar’s central jail in Urdu. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)