‘Abhi Nandan issue’ opens Pandora box in Pakistan

‘India will attack if we don’t release Abhinandan by 9 pm’ has said Shah Mahmood Qureshi; recounts Ayaz Sadiq, FM and DG-ISPR deny

Nation special report

ISLAMABAAD: Release of Indian pilot Abhi Nandan came under reference and discussion in Pakistan’s National Assembly

after almost one a half year and opened a pandora box on Wednesday that made Army spokesman to clarify overall situation. Former Speaker of NA and PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq speaking in Parliament on Wednesday claimed that fearing an attack by India, the Imran Khan government had abruptly released Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who landed in Pakistani custody last February after a dogfight between Indian and Pakistani pilots.

In a speech in the National Assembly, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had in an important meeting pointed out that if Pakistan did not release Abhinandan Varthaman, India would attack Pakistan “that night by 9 pm.”

The PML-N leader told opposition leaders that Qureshi in a meeting with the parliamentary leaders, including PPP and PML-N and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had asked for Abhinandan to be let free.

“I remember Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in the meeting in which Imran Khan had refused to attend and Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa was present in the room. His legs were shaking and he was perspiring. Foreign Minister said for God’s sake let Abhinandan go, India’s about to attack Pakistan at 9 PM”, Sadiq recounted the events of the important meeting.

Sadiq said that that the opposition has supported the government in all issues including Abhinandan but will not be able to further support it.

Wing Commander Varthaman shot into limelight after he shot down a Pakistani aircraft F-16, which had transgressed into the Indian airspace during a dog fight between Indian and Pakistani air force in February 2019 and in the process, his plane crossed over to Pakistani side and was shot down.  .Abhinandan was returned to India from the Attari-Wagah border on March 1.

SMQ denies

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday dismissed PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq’s statement over the circumstances in which Indian pilot Abhinandan was released, saying that “responsible people are making irresponsible statements.”

Qureshi said he had not expected the former National Assembly speaker (Sadiq) to say that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was let go by Pakistan under pressure, adding that the comments made by him were “contrary to the truth”.

He said the government had taken all parliamentary leaders into confidence regarding the intelligence reports it had received, but the captured Indian pilot was not mentioned in that meeting.

“Highly irresponsible statements are being issued for political gains; responsible people are talking irresponsibly, which is surprising,” the foreign minister said.

DG-ISPR refutes

Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), on Thursday termed as “disappointing” and “misleading” any attempt to link the release of Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman with anything other than Pakistan’s mature response as a responsible state.

Although the chief of the military’s media wing did not name anyone, his statement comes a day after former National Assembly speaker and senior PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq suggested that the PTI government had released Abhinandan in capitulation, fearing an imminent attack from India.

After his comments sparked a social media storm, Sadiq on Thursday issued a clarification, saying his remarks were being “misquoted and misreported”.

Addressing a press conference with a one-point agenda, the DG ISPR said he sought to “correct the record” regarding the events that surrounded India’s violation of Pakistani airspace last year in February.

“A statement was given yesterday which tried to distort the history of issues associated with national security,” he said.

The DG ISPR said following the attack on Indian troops in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area, India “showed aggression against Pakistan in violation of all international laws on February 26, 2019, in which not only did it face defeat but was humiliated around the world”.

Imran-Bajwa meeting

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa discussing the overall situation particularly the political scenario, internal security, border situation and other crucial issues facing by the country at PM House on Thursday.

Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa called on Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad on Thursday and discussed “professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Army, internal and external security situation”, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The premier, while referring to “recent efforts to stoke violence in Pakistan”, expressed the resolve that the entire nation was united “against the cowardly acts of the enemy”, tweeted PMO.

He also paid tribute to personnel from Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps and law enforcement agencies “who sacrificed their lives for the defence of the motherland”.

The meeting follows a bomb blast inside a mosque in Peshawar, where a large number of seminary students were attending a class on Tuesday morning, which killed eight students and wounded about 120 others.

It also comes amid heightened pressure from the opposition on the government through its rhetoric and public meetings under the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) banner, in which PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif claimed that the military leadership ‘brought’ Imran into power and was also ‘behind’ his ouster as prime minister in 2017.