Several tweets with images of Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) F-16 fighter jets hovering over Islamabad or taking off from the city’s motorways gave residents anxious moments late Thursday night.
Many, who ran into their homes due to the thunderous noise made by the fighter jets, thought it could be indication of a possible attack by India in response to the terror strike by militants at an army base in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday.
GEO TV journalist Hamid Mir was among those who tweeted on the F-16s flying over Islamabad. Mir later told an Indian channel he saw four to five fighter jets on the sky and that defense sources confirmed the forces were conducting war exercises.
Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif himself tweeted images of air force jets taking off from motorways.
In his tweet, Asif wrote: “The defenders of our skies, in a state of constant readiness, Alhamdolillah. Our motorways are our runways”.
PAF spokesperson Commodore Javed Mohammad Ali said the two-day air force exercise called High Mark was routine and should not be linked to recent tensions with India.
Traffic on the motorway between Islamabad and Lahore was diverted to an older mountain road on Thursday night.
Ali said the drill was needed to prepare for situations when runways get damaged.
‘Pakistan is a terrorist state’
India on Thursday called Pakistan a “terrorist state” and accused it of carrying out “war crimes” against Indians through its “long-standing policy” of sponsoring terrorism, hours after Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif racked up Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly session.
In a strong rebuttal, India said the terrorists designated by the UN continued to roam Pakistan’s streets freely and operate with State support.
Exercising India’s Right of Reply to Sharif’s “long tirade” about the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the UN Eenam Gambhir said “the worst violation of human rights is terrorism.”
“When practised as an instrument of state policy, it is a war crime. What my country and our other neighbors are facing today is Pakistan’s long-standing policy of sponsoring terrorism, the consequences of which have spread well beyond our region,” she said.
Gambhir said India sees in Pakistan “a terrorist state” which misuses billions of dollars, much of it diverted from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbors.
In a reference to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Gambhir said terrorist entities and their leaders, including many designated by the UN, continue to roam the streets of Pakistan freely and operate with State’s support.
“With the approval of authorities, many terrorist organizations raise funds openly in flagrant violation of Pakistan’s international obligations,” she said.
While Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation record is marked by “deception and deceit,” it talks about restraint, renunciation and peace.
“Similar false promises it has made to us — the international community — on terrorism. Perhaps renunciation of lies and self-restraint on threats could be a good place for Pakistan to start,” Gambhir said.
India also strongly criticized Sharif for glorifying Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, who was killed on July 8 by the Indian forces.
“Even today, we have heard support by the Prime Minister of Pakistan for a self-acknowledged commander of a known terrorist organization,” she said.
“It extends support to extremist groups, it suppresses minorities and women and denies basic human rights including through draconian laws,” she added.
Gambhir voiced India’s firm resolve to protect all its citizens from all acts of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We cannot and will not allow terrorism to prevail,” she said.
Gambhir reminded the UN that the trail of the most “horrifying” and “dastardly terror attack” of 9/11 led all the way to Abbottabad in Pakistan, where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been hiding for years and was killed by U.S. forces.
She also noted that the land of Taxila, one of the greatest learning centers of ancient times, “is now host to the Ivy League of terrorism” and attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the world.
“The effect of its toxic curriculum is felt across the globe,” she said, adding that it is ironical that a country which has established itself as the global epicenter of terrorism, is preaching human rights and talks about the ostensible support for self-determination.
She also told the UN General Assembly that shortly before Pakistan gave its “hypocritical sermons” in the world body, its envoy in New Delhi was summoned in the context of the most recent of the terror attacks in Uri that claimed 18 Indian lives.
“That terrorist attack is part of a trail of continuous flow of terrorists trained and armed by our neighbor and tasked to carry out terrorist attacks in my country,” she said.
Sharif raised the Kashmir issue with almost every world leader — including those from the US, the UK, Japan and Turkey — on Wednesday. He sought their intervention to resolve the matter.