IAF pilot to be released tomorrow: Pakistan PM Imran Khan

PTI

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (File Photo)

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that IAF’s captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released on Friday as a gesture of peace and the “first step” to open negotiations with India.

The surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament came barely an hour after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.

As the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif took the floor of the House, Prime Minister Khan apologised for interrupting him and said he wishes to announce that the Indian pilot captured by Pakistan Air Force on Wednesday will be released Friday as a peace gesture.

“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow (Friday), and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” Khan said.

The joint session of Parliament was held on Thursday to discuss rising tension with India.

Addressing the House, Khan said, “The only purpose of our strike was to demonstrate our capability and will.” “We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner.”

He said “Pakistan is a peace loving country” and desires peace and stability in the region.

The prime minister urged the international community to play its role in de-escalation for peace and stability in the region.

Pakistan detained the IAF pilot following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two sides along the Line of Control when his MiG 21 fighter jet was downed.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) said that the Indian Air Force pilot was safe and sound.

“The armed forces rescued him from the mob that went after him after his plane crashed in Kashmir,” the FO said.

India on Wednesday summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan and demanded the immediate and safe return of the IAF pilot who was detained by Pakistan following an aerial engagement by air forces of the two countries.

It has also been made clear to Pakistan that no harm should be caused to the Indian defence personnel, the External Affairs Ministry said in New Delhi, adding that it has conveyed strong objection to the neighbouring country at the “vulgar display” of an injured personnel in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.

(PTI)