Pak military on damage control after MP says IAF pilot was released out of panic
A Pakistani politician and the country’s military on Thursday tried to control damage caused by his remarks in parliament that Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had been released last year by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government after it panicked.
PML-N leader and former speaker of Pakistan’s parliament Sardar Ayaz Sadiq set a cat among the pigeons on Wednesday when he alleged that Abhinandan was released after a meeting of its leaders during which the foreign minister’s “legs were shaking”.
He said the decision to release Abhinandan had already been taken ahead of the meeting by the Pakistan PM with top political leaders.
“One thing is clear: Abhinandan did not come to Pakistan to distribute sweets; he had attacked Pakistan,” Sadiq said and questioned Khan’s motives behind delaying a meeting between top leadership to discuss the pilot’s fate.
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“The prime minister, through foreign minister [Shah Mahmood Qureshi], had said that Abhinandan should be handed over to India immediately,” Sadiq said, adding “Was he taking dictation from [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi?”
Sadiq alleged that the meeting was an eyewash and that Imran Khan had panicked.
On Thursday, Sadiq tried damage control, saying the Indian media had distorted his comments from the floor of the National Assembly where he had said that the Pakistan government took the decision to release the Indian Air Force (IAF) wing commander under pressure.
But the damage had been done. In response to Sadiq’s earlier statement, minister for science Fawad Chaudhry said Ayaz Sadiq had “lied confidently” over the Abhinandan incident.
The Pakistan Army has also waded into the controversy. In a hurriedly called press conference on Thursday, director general of Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said the decision to release Abhinandan was “the mature response of a responsible state.”
“Yesterday such a statement was given in which attempts were made to twist the facts [regarding Abhinandan’s release],” Gen Babar said.
In the backdrop of these events, Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said his briefing would be on a “single-point agenda” — to set the record straight on the entire episode.
He said that after the Pulwama terror attack, India “violated all international principles and attacked Pakistan” on February 26.
“They not only faced defeat but humiliation all over the world,” he claimed.
He said that in response, on February 27, the Pakistan Army, sought to “teach the enemy a lesson”.
Babar said that the enemy was in such a panicked state that it shot down its own helicopter.
“I wish to set the history straight once more. Pakistan first demonstrated it capability and resolve. The decision was then made keeping all war options in mind and from a position of strength,” Maj Gen Iftikhar Babar said.
In his remarks at the National Assembly on Wednesday, Sadig had said: “I remember Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in that meeting which the prime minister refused to attend and the chief of army staff joined us – his [Qureshi’s] legs were shaking and there was sweat on his brow.”
“And Shah Mahmood Qureshi told us, ‘For God’s sake let this man [Abhinandan] go back because at 9pm on that night, India will carry out an attack on Pakistan’,” he said, speaking in Urdu.