Balakot hilltop in Pakistan (Image credit: UttamHindu)
Pakistani authorities on Wednesday opened the facility, ostensibly a madrasa, on the hilltop of Balakot to a group of journalists of foreign media houses, as well as foreign diplomats, a good 43 days after the airstrike by Indian Air Force (IAF).
Indian Air Force on February 26 crossed over the international border with Pakistan and pounded Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist camp atop Balakot hill. The government said the action was taken after intelligence inputs revealed that Jaish was training suicide bombers in the facility there to carry out terror attacks on Indian soil.
Earlier on February 14, a Jaish terrorist rammed an explosives laden vehicle into the convoy of CRPF jawans, killing 40 of them in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan claimed no real damage to the facility or people from the airstrike, but prevented foreign journalists from reaching hilltop. Finally, Pakistan’s military organised a trip for the group consisting of journalists and foreign diplomats.
BBC Urdu reported that the group was flown in a helicopter from Islamabad up to the base of the hill. Many in the group reached hill top after trekking about 90 minutes, climbing steep slopes on the way. They were shown some craters supposedly created by the misled missiles in the IAF airstrike.
However, they were not allowed enough time to make fair assessment of the impact of the airstrike. Their movements were restricted to the main building of the madrasa where about 100 children were seen reciting passages from the Quran, rhythmically swaying their heads back and forth.
Some of the diplomats said giving a restricted access after six weeks made it difficult draw any definite conclusion.
India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitaraman responded to the visit with a cryptic remark Pakistan needed 40 days to whitewash the facility. Here is her tweet: