Pakistan agrees to free Indian pilot

0
369

Pakistan will release a captured Indian pilot as a “peace gesture” on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said.

Mr Khan revealed the decision in parliament after a speech in which he said Pakistan was focused on de-escalation.

Pakistan shot down the pilot’s jet on Wednesday, as tensions rose with India over the disputed region of Kashmir.

His capture was a major setback for India. Both sides are under pressure to calm tensions.

India struck targets in Pakistan on Tuesday after a militant attack on its security forces earlier this month that it blamed on its neighbour.

Pakistan said it had no choice but to retaliate with air strikes on Wednesday, which led to a dogfight and the Indian fighter jet being shot down.

Demand for pilot release

After the downing of the plane, India demanded the release of the fighter pilot shot down by Pakistan warplanes in a major escalation between the two nuclear powers over Kashmir.

Video showing the pilot – blindfolded and with blood on his face – was shared by Pakistan’s information ministry.

The moment Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured

India described the images as a “vulgar display of an injured personnel”.

Social media users in India have hailed the pilot as a hero. Others are urging both countries to show restraint, with the hashtag #SayNoToWar.

The recent aerial attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian and Pakistani territory in Kashmir are the first since a war in 1971.

The incident, in which Pakistan said it had shot down two military jets, has escalated tensions between the two nations, both of whom claim all of Kashmir, but control only parts of it.

The Indian Pilot

The Indian Air Force pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan, had been reported “missing in action” by Indian officials.

Images then circulated of his capture, which were both condemned for what appeared to be a physical attack at the hands of residents in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and praised for the actions of the Pakistani soldiers who intervened to create a barrier.

Pakistan’s information ministry published – but subsequently deleted – a video purporting to show the blindfolded pilot, who could be heard requesting water, after he had been captured. In later footage, Wing Commander Abhinandan could be seen sipping tea from a cup without a blindfold and appeared to have been cleaned up.

He answered a number of questions including his name, military position and that he was from “down south”, before refusing to share any details when asked about his mission: “I’m not supposed to tell you that.”

Pakistan’s military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said the pilot was being “treated as per norms of military ethics”.

How the story unfolded

It came a day after India struck what it saud was a militant camp in Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 40 Indian troops in Kashmir.

A Pakistan-based group said it carried out the attack – the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

On Wednesday, the US urged India and Pakistan to avoid further military action and said it was focused on de-escalating the tension between the two sides.