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Pak to send back IAF pilot as ‘goodwill gesture’

Islamabad, Feb 28: The captured Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot will be freed on Friday “as a peace gesture”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the IAF was captured by Pakistanis on Wednesday after his MiG was shot down and fell in Pakistani territory during a dogfight.


Addressing a joint session of the National Assembly, Khan said the India-Pakistan situation should not “get out of hand” otherwise “Pakistan will have to retaliate”, the Dawn reported.

“Countries are ruined because of miscalculation,” said Khan. Alleging “war hysteria” in India, he said: “I’m afraid there might be a miscalculation.”War is not a solution. If India takes any action, we will have to retaliate.”

The joint session of Parliament was called to discuss the rising tensions with India.”The only purpose of our strike (on India on Wednesday) was to demonstrate our capability and will,” said the Prime Minister. “We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner.”

He said he tried to call Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the telephone on Wednesday because “escalation is not in our interests nor in India’s”.

Talking about the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India, the prime minister said that despite his government’s multiple overtures of peace, the response from New Delhi had not been encouraging.

“We realised that it was because of upcoming elections in India,” he said and added that the government decided to wait until the polls in India were over before making another offer for talks. However, he disclosed, he had “feared they (India) would do something”.

He told the Parliament that after an Indian aircraft violated Pakistan’s airspace in the wee hours of Tuesday, he had a meeting with Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa where it was decided that Pakistan will not respond straightaway.

“We realised that Pakistani people might get upset that we did not respond, but we (army chief and premier) decided that since we did not know if there were any casualties, in case of an immediate response there will be escalation.”

An official handout issued by the Pakistan National Assembly Secretariat said: “The forum unanimously expressed that they stand united against any aggression against Pakistan and will support the government and its institutions unconditionally.”

It said the participants also “expressed hope that those who want peace and stability will prevail as war is not an option but a failure of policy”.


Very happy he will return, says IAF
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, Feb 28: The Indian Air Force Thursday said it is very happy that captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is returning home but dismissed suggestions that it was a goodwill gesture, insisting it was in line with the Geneva Conventions
“We are very happy Abhinandan will be freed tomorrow and look forward to his return,” Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, assistant chief of Air Staff, told a news conference.
Varthaman’s MiG 21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down two Pakistani F-16 fighters during a dogfight to repel a Pakistani attack on Wednesday morning, he said. He has been in Pakistan since then.
Asked if the IAF sees it as a goodwill move, he said, “We see it as a gesture in consonance with the Geneva Conventions.”
He was addressing the media along with the representatives of the Army and the Navy, who both said the armed forces are on high alert and ready to meet any security challenge on land and sea
Kapoor said it was up to the political leadership to decide when and how to release evidence of the Balakot strike’s success.
He was responding to a question that there was some scepticism about whether IAF fighters had hit the intended targets
Kapoor said there is credible information and evidence that “we hit the intended targets” and it was premature to assess the casualties and damage.


Mirwaiz, Omar, Mehbooba welcome
Monitor News Bureau
Srinagar, Feb 28: The Kashmiri mainstream leaders today welcomed the Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s peace gesture to release captured Indian war pilot.
“The decision to hand over Wing Commander Abhinandan is a great gesture & shouldn’t be seen in isolation. It also comes at a time when Pak could’ve chosen to further escalate an already tensed situation. I see it as a mark of reconciliation. Our leadership should reciprocate,” Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.
In a tweet National Conference vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah said, “Very glad to know that #WingCommandarAbhinandan will be heading home. I’ll wait for him to be back on Indian soil before I welcome him back but I’m greatly relieved that PM @ImranKhanPTI has announced the imminent release of our pilot.”
“Pakistan PM Imran Khan move to release Abhinandan is a welcome move. Conflicts per se r not irresolvable. Leadership makes a conflict resolvable or irresolvable,” Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone tweeted.
The captured Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot will be released on Friday “as a peace gesture”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the IAF was captured by Pakistanis on Wednesday after his MiG was shot down and fell in Pakistani territory during a dogfight.
Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Thursday welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to release the captured IAF pilot.
“Welcome decision by Pakistan PM @ImranKhanPTI to release the captive indian pilot as a peace gesture. Hope better sense prevails the war clouds scatter and the #Kashmir dispute moves towards a peaceful resolution,” Mirwaiz tweeted.
National Conference (NC) president and former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah today welcomed Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s peace gesture to release captured Indian pilot.
He said this step taken by Pakistan is a much needed effort for peace and this is how things will be brought closer between India and Pakistan.
“We hope India will also take such initiatives to ensure peace and stability in the region,” he added.


‘India trends Welcome Back Abhinandan’
New Delhi, Feb 28: Emotions run high in India as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be sent back home today.
Soon after the news of Abhinandan’s release broke, Twitter users took to the micro-blogging platform to say Welcome Back Abhinandan.
Bollywood actor Taapsee Pannu was one of the first celebrities to react to the news. The Naam Shabana actress wrote, “Now this really brought smile to my face !!! Waiting for tomorrow ….. with bated breath… This is heartening. THIS is worth celebrating.”
Musician Vishal Dadlani wrote, “Bahut khoob, @ImranKhanPTI Saab! Dil se shukriya. #SayNoToWar #WelcomeBackAbhinandan”
Twitter user Zeeshan Khan wrote, “#PeaceAmbassadorImranKhan thank you @ImranKhanPTI “Actions speak louder than words” you proved it before and done it again now by giving peace another chance. War won’t bring anything but a great loss on both side of the border. Bless you! #WelcomeBackAbhinandan”
“We can’t wait to welcome the braveheart.. #WelcomeBackAbhinandan” wrote Barun Mahapatro.
Rajeshwari Prasad wrote, “Thanks for giving our people strength & showing us what a Real Hero is made of. We celebrate your existence,your bravery & You. #WelcomeBackAbhinandan #AbhinandanVartaman #AbhinandanMyHero”
India and Pakistan had been on edge after the Indian Air Force conducted airstrikes on February 26 on Jaish-e-Mohammed training camos in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. After the IAF’s airstrikes, which were in retaliation to terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed’s February 14 suicide bombing on a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, tensions between India and Pakistan were at an all-time high. On February 27, the Pakistani Air Force shot down an IAF MiG-21 Bison jet and took Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in custody.
Netizens from India and Pakistan took to Twitter and social media platforms to trend #SayNoToWar, #BringBackAbhinandan and #BringHimHome all through Wednesday.