NEW DELHI — Speaking to BBC Urdu on Friday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the decision to release Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan was not taken under pressure, rather it was a gesture of peace.
“There was neither compulsion nor pressure to release the Indian pilot,” Pakistan foreign minister said in the interview.
“We wanted to give them [New Delhi] the message that we don’t want to mistreat your citizens, we don’t want your suffering to increase. We want peace.”
Abhinandan was captured a day after Indian fighter planes bombed what New Delhi said was a militant camp in Pakistan, retaliation for a suicide bombing in Kashmir on February 14 that killed at least 40 paratroopers. His plane was reportedly shot down on Wednesday by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) after it violated Pakistani airspace.
The Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman also reportedly shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 jet across the LoC before his capture.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Thursday had announced that the IAF pilot will be released as a “gesture of peace.”
In his interview to BBC Urdu, Qureshi said that Pakistan does not want regional peace to be ruined for the sake of (Indian) politics.
He also said that Pakistan would not allow any militant outfit to operate on the country’s soil, and “if any group does that, the government plans to take action against it”.
IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was on Friday evening, as promised by Imran Khan, handed over to Indian High Commission officials at Pakistan’s Wagah border.
On the other hand, hailing India’s efforts in bringing back Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan Friday said the brave soldiers of India made the neighbouring country bow under pressure, according to PTI report.
“It is for the first time in the history of our country that an Indian soldier is returning from Pakistan in such a way. We can understand that our brave soldiers made Pakistan bow and act under pressure.”