Pakistan to release Captured Indian fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan tomorrow as a peace gesture: PM Pakistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced to release Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman on Friday as a peace gesture.

The pilot was captured by Pakistani forces after his jet was downed on Thursday.

The prime minister was giving a policy statement at a joint sitting of both houses of parliament convened to discuss situation that has emerged after Indian intrusion of Pakistan’s airspace .

The session is being attended by all the political parties in the Senate and the National Assembly.

In a big step towards de-escalating tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday decided to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot tomorrow. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was detained on Wednesday following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two sides along the Line of Control when his MiG 21 fighter jet was hit.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made the announcement saying that it was a “peace gesture” by his country.

“Yesterday I tried to call (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi to say that we don’t want escalation. Our push for de-escalation doesn’t mean we are afraid,” Imran Khan said.

“As a peace gesture we are releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan tomorrow,” he said today.

In New Delhi, government sources had earlier said that India has not asked for consular access to the IAF pilot, and is insisting on his unconditional and immediate return. Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) had said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) 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.

The Express Tribune reported that Pakistan is yet to decide whether the IAF pilot will be declared a prisoner of war (PoW) and which convention will be applied.

He paid tribute to the national and political parties for being united in the prevailing situation . He said even before being sworn in as prime minister in July, he had said that Pakistan would take two steps forward if India takes one step towards peace.

Khan once again raised the question what his country was supposed to gain from Pulwama attack which India blamed on Pakistan.

“India started blaming Pakistan within half an hour after Pulwama attack,” he said.

“After Indian aircraft violated airspace, Pakistan waited to ascertain the damages instead of reacting immediately”, he said

Khan said Pakistan showed responsibility despite knowing people’s sentiment after India violated Pakistan’s airspace.

The prime minister acted against India and made sure there was no collateral damage.

“We took action just to show our capability”.

He said on Wednesday he he tried to contact his Indian counterpart after the incident.

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