Pakistan to release captured IAF pilot tomorrow as ‘peace gesture’: Imran Khan
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is in Pakistan Army’s custody since Wednesday morning.Updated: Feb 28, 2019 21:44 IST
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that captured Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released on Friday as a “gesture of peace”. Khan made the announcement in his address to the joint session of the National Assembly of Pakistan expressing hope that the move will help de-escalate tension between India and Pakistan.
“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow as a gesture of peace,” said Khan in the Pakistan’s parliament.
Wing Commander Abhinandan is in Pakistan Army’s custody since Wednesday morning. He had landed on the other side of the Line of Control after his aircraft fell down during aerial dogfight between India and Pakistan. (Follow live updates here)
During his address in the joint session of Pakistani parliament, Khan said he is ready to have dialogue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said, “I tried to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as I want to de-escalate prevailing tension between the two countries.”
Watch | Opinion I Why IAF pilot’s release may not immediately de-escalate tensions
“I appeal to India and Narendra Modi not to escalate the situation further. It would not be in favour of either India or Pakistan given the kind of weapons the two countries have,” said Khan. He defended violation of Indian airspace by Pakistan Air Force saying the country was forced to “retaliate” following action by India.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s offered a “deal” to India on the IAF pilot. He said Pakistan was ready to release the pilot if it meant “de-escalation” of the current tension between the two countries.
On Thursday, India rejected the “deal offer” saying it wanted immediate release of the IAF pilot. New Delhi also rejected the proposal for dialogue with Pakistan until it takes “concrete” steps against terror outfits.