Pakistan will release the captured Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot through Wagah border post today, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi confirmed on Friday.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was taken into custody by Pakistan army on Wednesday after an aerial combat between the two countries in which two Indian fighter jets were shot down.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had said on Thursday addressing a joint session of the Parliament that Pakistan will release the Indian pilot on Friday as a “gesture of peace” to de-escalate tensions with his country’s nuclear-armed eastern neighbor.
“As a peace gesture, we will be releasing him tomorrow,” he announced while addressing a joint session of parliament.
Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian fighter jets that had breached the Line of Control, or the de facto border separating the Indian- and Pakistani-administered portions of Kashmir, on Wednesday morning, before capturing a pilot — Wing Commander Abhinandan. India has already asked Pakistan to release its fighter pilot.
After being shot down, the Indian pilot was captured by locals before being taken into custody by the army personnel. “The officers of Pakistan Army have looked after me very well,” Abhinandan can be heard saying in a video released by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) which is the military’s media wing.
As part of a policy statement on the floor of the House, Prime Minister Khan added that he had tried to speak to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on telephone, reasoning that the recent escalation was neither in the interest of Pakistan nor that of India. “We aren’t afraid of anything, but want peace,” he continued.