March 1, 2019
Pakistan will release a Indian pilot it shot down on Wednesday as a peace gesture.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter pilot, Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistani Army on Wednesday, will be released on Friday.
“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” Pak PM Imran Khan said in the country’s parliament.
Khan’s decision preempted a joint press conference to be held by the head of the three services of the Indian armed forces. The press conference was later postponed.
The decision came after India said that it will not agree on any deal with Pakistan and demanded his unconditional and immediate release.
Speaking about the IAF fighter pilot captured by Pakistan, the Ministry of Defence officials said that he was ill-treated by the Pakistan Army in violation of the Geneva Convention.
“The IAF pilot has to be repatriated unconditionally and immediately. There is no question of any deal,” a source was quoted as saying by PTI.
Government sources said that India has not asked for consular access but the immediate release of the IAF pilot.
Dismissing chances of any talks, the government sources stressed on “immediate, credible and verifiable action against terror is required before any conversation”.
“Imran Khan should now walk the [walk] on dealing with terrorism,” they added.
The announcement of Wg Cdr Abhinandan’s release came on the day when Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a Pakistani news channel that Imran Khan is ready for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone and offer peace.
In an interview to Geo News, Qureshi said that Pakistan is willing to consider returning the Indian pilot if it helps in the de-escalation of the current situation between the two nations.
“If there is de-escalation with the return of this [Indian] pilot, Pakistan is willing to consider this. We are ready for all positive engagement,” he said.
India had on Wednesday summoned the Pakistani envoy and handed over a demarche demanding the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot. It also strongly objected to Pakistan’s “vulgar display” of the pilot and said Pakistan “would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to him”.