–ISPR chief says India was given a ‘bloody nose and it is still hurting’
–Says ‘misleading’ to link release with anything other than ‘mature response’
ISLAMABAD: The army on Thursday clarified that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force pilot who was captured in February last year after the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down his intruding jet during a dogfight, was released only to “give peace another chance” and not for any other reason.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Major General Babar Iftikhar held a press conference to “set the record straight” after former National Assembly (NA) speaker and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq claimed during a lower house session that the Indian pilot was released “out of the fear of Indian retaliation”.
Addressing the press conference, General Iftikhar said that he had a “one-point agenda: to talk about Indian violation of Pakistan’s airspace in Februrary last year”.
Referring to Sadiq’s claim, the ISPR chief said that a statement was given which “tried to distort the history of issues associated with national security”.
He said that following the attack on a convoy of Indian security forces in the Pulwama district on occupied Jammu and Kashmir which killed some 40 troops, 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”.
“Pakistani armed forces’ alert and timely response foiled the enemy’s designs. The enemy planes that had come to drop the explosives on the Pakistani people escaped while dropping their payload on empty mountains in panic after seeing our shaheens.”
He said that the Pakistan security forces “decided to teach the enemy a lesson in response” to the attack and the country’s entire civil and military leadership was united in the decision.
“Pakistan responded to India in broad daylight after announcing it. Not only did we give an appropriate reply, but also shot down two enemy warplanes [and] Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured.
“During these actions, the enemy became so frightened that it shot down its own helicopter and troops in a state of panic. This victory not only exposed India’s hollow claims of power before the world but made the entire Pakistani nation proud,” he said.
The ISPR director general said that Pakistan’s victory was “not only acknowledged by the world” but the Indian leadership had attributed their forces’ failure to the absence of Rafale fighter jets.
“Being a responsible state, the Government of Pakistan in order to give peace another chance decided to release Indian prisoner of war Wing Commander Abhinandan,” he added, emphasising that this decision, which was in line with the Geneva Convention, was praised the world over.
“I want to set the record straight once more. Pakistan, first, demonstrated its capability and resolve. The decision was taken after considering all possible conflict options, and was from a position of strength,” General Iftikhar said.
He stressed that the civil and military leadership were prepared to combat “any sort of situation” with full preparedness. He also said that linking the “mature response of a responsible state” in releasing Abhinandan to any other situation was “highly regrettable and misleading,” adding it would be akin to declaring a Pakistani defeat to India.
“In my opinion, this would be unacceptable for any Pakistani,” the ISPR DG said. “Such statements have a visible impact on national stability,” he said, adding that India was taking advantage of this through its media.
“This same statement is being used to reduce the extent of India’s defeat,” General Iftikhar said.
“Under the current scenario, when enemy forces are indulging in hybrid warfare against Pakistan, we must all take great care in moving forward responsibly,” he said. “The Pakistan Army is keeping an eye on regional security, and is not only well aware of all internal and external threats but is also prepared to respond to them.”
“With the aid of our nation, we will defeat all conspiracies against Pakistan and will respond to any aggression in a befitting manner,” he added.
After addressing the press, the ISPR chief responded to a single question on alleged attempts to sow division between the rank-and-file and the military leadership.
“No one can divide the leadership and the rank-and-file,” he said. “This is the reality now, and will remain the reality,” he responded.