Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan after an engagement with Indian forces on February 27, will be released by Islamabad on March 1, Prime Minister Imran Khan has confirmed.
The pilot was captured by Pakistani forces after his MiG 21 Bison crossed the Line Of Control (LoC) and fell into the neighbouring country’s territory.
PM Imran Khan told parliamentarians during a joint session, “As a peace gesture we are releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan tomorrow,” Pakistani news channels have reported.
Sources have told CNN News18 that Wing Commander Abhinandan will be coming from the Wagah Border and that he will be accompanied by the outgoing defense attache.
Earlier on February 28, India had made its stand clear and said that they were not looking to strike any deal with Pakistan, and were not even negotiating for consular access, but demanding “immediate release” of the pilot.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, reportedly said that Pakistan is “willing to consider returning the Indian pilot if it means de-escalation of ties between the two countries.”Reiterating the same sentiment, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson, Dr Muhammad Faisal had earlier said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot held captive by Pakistan is “safe and healthy”.
“We will decide in a couple of days what convention will apply to him and whether to give him Prisoner of War status or not,” Faisal had said on February 28.
India had on February 27 summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan, Syed Haider Shah, and demanded the immediate and safe return of an IAF pilot who was detained by Pakistan following an aerial engagement by air forces of the two countries.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry had also made it clear to Pakistan that no harm should be caused to the IAF pilot, adding that it has conveyed strong objection to the neighbouring country at the “vulgar display” of an injured personnel in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions.To the news of homecoming of Wg Cdr Abhinandan, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said that “this great gesture shouldn’t be seen in isolation”. She tweeted:
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh told ANI, “I’m very happy, I had demanded his release earlier too. This is going to be a step towards goodwill and I hope this will be lasting.”Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Keshav Prasad Maurya tweeted: