Pakistan says it downed two IAF jets, identifies pilots behind act
For the first time, Islamabad on Wednesday identified its two fighter pilots who were involved in an aerial combat with IAF jets as Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Parliament that two Indian planes were shot down by them.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.
India launched a counter-terror operation in Balakot on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India on March 1.
Lauding the PAF pilots in the National Assembly, Qureshi said, “Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian aircraft violating Pakistani airspace. One Indian jet was shot down by Squadron Leader Hassan Siddiqui while the other was downed by Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan.”
Qureshi officially identified Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan as the PAF pilot who shot down the second Indian fighter jet in the dogfight last week, Dawn news reported. Pakistani military on February 27 claimed that two Indian IAF were hit. One plane crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir while the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir after being hit, it said.
India has maintained that Pakistan downed a MiG-21 aircraft of the IAF while the Indian Air Force shot down an F-16 jet of the PAF during the dogfight.
The foreign minister made the statement after Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, during his speech, praised Squadron Leader Siddiqui for downing the IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG-21 jet on February 27.
“One clarification: Bilawal paid tribute to Hassan Siddiqui as he’s absolutely a national hero,” Qureshi said.
“But I would like to clarify that two Indian planes were shot down. The other one was shot down by Wg Cdr Nauman Ali Khan,” he added, asking that the second pilot also be given due credit.
Qureshi, responding to Bilawal’s claim that Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken a risk by prematurely releasing the Indian pilot, said: “This was discussed and we did it in Pakistan’s interest.
“We thought by doing that we would be (sending) a message of de-escalation and that message went loud and clear, and was appreciated all over the world,” the foreign minister said.