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Pakistan to release IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan tomorrow, says Imran Khan

Khan’s announcement comes hours after US President Donald Trump said in Vietnam that there would “reasonably good news” coming from India and Pakistan

Prime News, International, (Islamabad), February 28:-Pakistan PM Imran Khan has announced that IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released on Friday.

Khan made the announcement during an address to Pakistani parliament, saying it was the first step to open negotiations. The Army, Air Force and Navy, meanwhile, will address a joint press conference shortly from now. The Ministry of External Affairs will also join them.

Khan’s announcement comes hours after US President Donald Trump said in Vietnam that there would “reasonably good news” coming from India and Pakistan. “They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop,” Trump had said. “We have been in the middle trying to help them both out.”

It is yet not clear if Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will attend a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) after he threatened to boycott the meet over invitation to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. His statement came amid the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan after the former claimed to have struck terror launch pads in Balakot.

The Pentagon on Wednesday urged the two South Asian neighbours to avoid further military action, fearing an escalation of the current tensions between India and Pakistan. Canada also called for de-escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan on Wednesday captured an IAF pilot following the aerial engagement in which a Pakistani jet, stated to be a F-16, was downed by Indian air defence forces in Jammu region’s Rajouri sector. The IAF also lost a MiG 21 jet in the engagement, an Indian official said. Pakistan has denied losing a jet. The Pakistan Army retracted its earlier statement that two IAF pilots were arrested and in the evening said it had “only one” pilot in its custody.

As fears of war darkened India-Pakistan relations with the Air Force repulsing retaliatory attacks from the western neighbour, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tried to defuse the tension by saying war is futile and can lead to unknown consequences while making an oblique reference to the nuclear weapons that both countries possess.

The Pakistan Army retracted its earlier statement that two Indian Air Force pilots were arrested and in the evening said it had “only one” pilot in its custody. “There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhi Nandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics,” Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said in the evening.

Till late Wednesday afternoon, India’s political leaders, both in government and in the opposition, were mostly quiet. In a live television broadcast, Pakistan’s leader Imran Khan also reiterated the military’s claim that two Indian MIGs were shot down, as he offered to defuse tensions and resolve the issues through talks.

He said the Pakistani incursion into the Indian air space was “only intended to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same.”

Two Indian MiGs were shot down in the ensuing action, Khan said, one day after Indian government sources said up to 350 JeM terrorists were killed in Tuesday’s attack. There was no official confirmation of the claim.

“I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation? If this (situation) escalates, it will no longer be in my control or in (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s,” Khan said.

-(NAV, Inputs: Agencies)

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