Pakistan to release captured pilot Abhinandan tomorrow: Imran Khan

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Pakistan will release the Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman tomorrow, announced the Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Making an announcement to this effect in the Pakistani Parliament today, the Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the Indian Air Force pilot captured by Pakistan a day before will be released tomorrow on Friday as a first step towards the Pakistani gesture of peace. He also warned India not to treat this as their weakness.

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The announcement came as a surprise hours after his Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that Khan was ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.

Before announcing Varthaman’s release, Khan said that the de-escalation efforts by Pakistan should not be mistaken by India for “weakness.”Pakistan wants peace,” Khan said, asserting that escalating tensions will benefit neither India nor Pakistan.”I want to tell Modi, let’s not push it further. I am telling India, not to escalate as we have powerful militaries. If you do, we will be compelled to retaliate,” said the Pakistani premier. 

It may be recalled that IAF MiG-21 pilot wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman was taken into custody after he landed in Pak territory with the help of a parachute. He was forced to eject from his MiG-21 after it was shot by the Pak army. The incident occurred on Wednesday morning. Tension gripped the entire country soon after the video showing Abhinandan being manhandled brutally by the Pak men went viral. India lodged a protest yesterday with Pak Deputy High Commissioner after summoning him to Ministry of External Affairs office in New Delhi on the ill-treatment meted out to Abhinandan. 

India also issued a country-wide red alert urging all the governments to make extraordinary arrangements to keep a watch on every sensitive movement in the country. The Indian military has shifted people from adjoining villages along the Indo-Pak border and declared holidays to the educational institutions and urged other villagers not to venture out and to remain in their houses and to hide in the specially made bunkers to protect themselves from the firing. Additional military forces and other infrastructure required to wage a war have rushed to the border areas along the LoC. All the airports were shut in the country including the Shamshabad airport in Hyderabad. 

In addition to Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab governments were put on high alert. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today visited the border villages to assess the situation.

Apparently bowing to the pressures from the international community, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO)  today claimed that the Indian Air Force pilot was safe and sound. “The armed forces rescued him from the mob attack after his plane crashed in PoK”, it claimed. The Government of India yet to react officially on the Imran Khan’s announcement today.