Pak releases Abhinandan, Thousands gather at Wagah border

New Delhi / Chennai: The India-Pakistan border at Wagah-Attari site had festive atmosphere today as thousands gathered to give a hero’s welcome to Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan who was set to cross the border over to the Indian side later this evening.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was handed over to the Indian High Commission in Pakistan this morning and a delegation of IAF team will receive him once he crosses the border. He was captured by Pakistan after his IAF MIG 21 plane went down on PoK during an aerial combat.

The development comes as India-Pakistan are locked in a staredown over the claim of attacks on each other territories. While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the Indian pilot will be released as a gesture of peace, the Indian Air Force has dismissed it saying, “We only see it as a gesture which is in consonance with the Geneva Conventions.” Even as India awaited the arrival of Abhinandan, a Pakistani activist filed a writ petition in a Pakistan court to challenge his release.

Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah said that creating a situation for return of pilot Abhinandan in such a short span of time is India’s diplomatic victory. Accusing Pakistan Prime Minister, Shah said, “Imran Khan should have criticised Pulwama attacks at least once. How can we trust him?”

Thousands of people thronged India-Pakistan border to welcome Abhinandan.

On Wednesday, Abhinandan’s MiG 21 jet was involved in an encounter with Pakistani F-16 fighterjets which intruded into Indian airspace. India will be sharing this information to the United States along with debris from the F-16 that was shot down by Indian pilots as evidence to emphasise that the neighbouring country is misusing assets it may have acquired under the ‘fight against terrorism’ banner in 2008. The Pakistani F16 fighter jets, as per the sale agreement with United States, can only be used for counter-terrorism operations, not to attack any country.

Pak spy detained

An alleged Pakistan spy has been apprehended from Ferozepur area in Punjab and sources say that he was trying to photograph a Border Security Force (BSF) border outpost in Maboke, here. The BSF personnel recovered a phone, an active Pakistani SIM card and a camera from his possession.

The arrested individual is an Indian national who hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad, according to reports. It was found that the telephone number being used by him was added to eight Pakistan-based groups. Six other Pakistan-based phone numbers were also retrieved from him.

JeM Chief is here: Pak minister

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has confirmed that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar is in the country. The minister said in an interview that Masood Azhar is “unwell to an extent that he cannot leave the house.”

He also said that Pakistan is ready to take action against Azhar if there is evidence that can ‘stand in a court of law’. He said, “If they (India) have solid, inalienable evidence that is acceptable to courts of Pakistan, share it with us so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan.”

The development comes at a time when diplomatic pressure is mounting on Pakistan over terror groups operating on its soil. India and US have been critical of Pakistan’s shielding of Azhar.

Ceasefire violation
With talks for peace on one side, Pakistan troops were involved in multiple ceasefire violations this morning along the LoC in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

Encounter also broke out in Kupwara district between militants and security forces. Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Babagund area of Kupwara following information about presence of militants there. This turned into an encounter after militants opened firing towards the security forces, who retaliated. There are no reports of any casualties so far.

 

NT Bureau